Media mogul Rupert Murdoch took no prisoners as he reasserted his position at the summit of News Corporation this week. Having set the tone for his company’s AGM with an 11 Oct tweet stating “any shareholders with complaints should take profits and sell!”, the 81-year-old was equally combative at the event itself. Shareholder delegates to the Los Angeles pow-wow saw Murdoch dismiss calls for him to stand down after the UK phone-hacking scandal, and for his current twin roles of chief executive and chairman to be separated.
Murdoch also reiterated plans to split News Corp in half by dividing its publishing arms from its TV and film outlets – but took the edge off things somewhat with a commitment to chair both divisions.
For some shareholders, the moves confirmed that News Corp operates as a dictatorship, and only heightened the anger that had coloured the run up to the AGM following another Murdoch tweet that described members of the UK’s Hacked Off campaign as “scumbag celebrities”. Despite palpable criticism of Murdoch’s leadership signalled by four major shareholding groups – the Australian Shareholders Association, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the UK’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum – that opposition failed to convert into any effective change. A bid to end News Corp’s dual-class share structure, which gives Murdoch 40% of the voting share, was blocked, and the board was re-elected.
Addressing the AGM, Murdoch stated: “We never thought of ourselves as a conventional company … we focus on writing our own future and in doing so we have transformed the media landscape.” He also set out a robust defence of the company’s performance, pointing out that the UK hacking problems had proven to be isolated, and that News Corp had achieved a 45% share-price rise on the previous year. The message: Murdoch has no intention of letting anyone interfere with his personal vision for News Corp’s future.