Murdoch, News Corp board reelected at subdued meeting

Tue Oct 16, 2012 9:27pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch survived yet another attempt to oust him as chairman of his News Corp media empire on Tuesday, the second straight year he has defeated critics who say his family wields too much control over the company.

Shareholders re-elected Murdoch, his two sons, Lachlan and James, and the rest of the company's returning board members during a 75-minute meeting in Los Angeles. They also voted against proposals that would have separated the chairman and CEO roles held by Murdoch and eliminated News Corp's dual class stock structure, which gives the Murdoch family voting control of the company.

Only 5 percent of investors voted against re-electing Murdoch during this year's meeting. James, who was seated in the front row, received a 17 percent against reelection vote, while 21 percent of shareholders voted against reelecting Lachlan, who did not attend the event.

A year ago, about 16 percent of investors voted against Murdoch. James and Lachlan fared worse, with about 35 percent of shareholders voting against their re-election to the board. But the Murdochs were still reelected because they control 40 percent of the voting rights.

As he did last year, Murdoch, 81, began Tuesday's annual meeting by trying to make amends for "some wrongdoings at some publications in the U.K.," a reference to the telephone-hacking scandal that prompted the closing of the News of the World tabloid.

That was about the only similarity with last year's meeting, which came at the height of the scandal and featured about 100 protesters who attracted television cameras with signs that read: "Murdoch isn't above the law" and "Big Media, Big Money, Get Out." Tom Watson, a British member of parliament, also flew in to voice complaints about the hacking scandal.

By contrast, the atmosphere at Tuesday's meeting was extremely subdued. Only about 80 people, including reporters, were in attendance at the Zanuck Theater on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles. Standing at a podium emblazoned with the News Corp logo, Murdoch looked out into a sea of velvet chairs that were three-fourths empty. Rarely was he confronted, and when he was, he simply smiled and answered politely.

Prior to the meeting, two investors, Christian Brothers Investment Services and Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, put forth a resolution to elect an independent chairman for News Corp. California's two largest public pension funds - the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (Calstrs) supported the move to split the jobs.   Continued...

News Corp Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch gestures as he speaks at the "The Economics and Politics of Immigration" Forum in Boston, Massachusetts August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi