Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
Rupert Murdoch said he was sorry twice within 24 hours on Thursday while also demanding an apology from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. – all over a series of tweets from earlier in the week. Last Saturday, Murdoch tweeted: “Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad.” Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier met with reps for the anti-phone-hacking campaign Hacked Off including Hugh Grant, Charlotte Church and former BBC host Jacqui Hames. In response to Murdoch’s missive, Hames wrote: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story eh Rupert. Happy to discuss our concerns with you sometime?” Murdoch replied: “I did not say all celebrities were scumbags. Check my tweet. And apology to any who misunderstood.” Another Twitter user wrote: “Scumbags”? And your journalists and executives are what?” Referring to Grant, Murdoch riposted: “They don’t get arrested for indecency on major LA highways! Or abandon love child’s.” Grant was reported to be considering legal action, The Guardian said. Murdoch tried to defuse the situation by taking to Twitter again: “Hugh Grant states that he is deeply involved in his daughter’s life – I accept that, regret tweet on the matter. Apologies to both parents.” In Australia, the ABC’s website reported Murdoch’s “scumbag celebrities” quote which incensed READ MORE »
The just-released vote totals from News Corp‘s shareholders meeting today seem to show that independent investors overwhelmingly supported resolutions critical of management — and opposed controversial board candidates including James and Lachlan Murdoch, and Natalie Bancroft. I use the hedge word “seem” because to reach this conclusion you have to make a reasonable, but unproven, assumption based on the tallies the company reported in an SEC filing: that CEO Rupert Murdoch and his ally Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal cast the nearly 47% of the voting shares that they control in favor of management-supported positions. With their votes, all of the board candidates were elected and the company prevailed on controversial resolutions including one that would have required News Corp to have an independent director serve as chairman — taking the position away from Rupert.
Related: News Corp Critics Tell Shareholders That They’ll Continue To Challenge Murdoch’s Clout Read More »
UPDATE, 11:25 AM: A few more odds and ends from the News Corp shareholders meeting that just concluded on the Fox lot: Lachlan Murdoch — Rupert Murdoch‘s son, and a board member — didn’t show….One shareholder asked Rupert whether he’d consider adding a liberal columnist to The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page. “We don’t interfere” with the editorial side of the operation, he said. He added that the opinion editor is the same one who served before he bought the paper in 2007, “so there’s no change.”…Board member Andrew Knight answered a question about why directors subtracted company costs related to the hacking scandal for the profit figures they used to calculate executive bonuses. Had the costs been included, they could have reduced the bonuses by as much as 5%, he acknowledged….Questioned about his frequent and often controversial comments on Twitter, Murdoch delivered the response he frequently offers his critics. “When you buy the stock, you know what the company is,” he said. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy the stock.”…No questions about, or mention of, reports that James Murdoch might take control of Fox Broadcasting and several cable networks — or about the exit payment for indicted former News International chief Rebekah Brooks.
Related: News Corp Critics Win Symbolic, But Not Actual, Victories In Shareholder Votes
PREVIOUS, 10:44 AM: News Corp critics who want to dilute Rupert Murdoch’s power had their chance to speak during the company’s annual shareholders meeting on the Fox lot — after the CEO announced that their proposals had been voted down. Julie Tanner of Christian Brothers Investment Services said that it was a “conflict of interests” for Murdoch to serve both as CEO and board chairman. She called the reforms in News Corp’s ethics policies “timid” and warned that without structural changes scandals like the hacking and bribery ones in the UK “will cloud the company for the foreseeable future.” Murdoch barely paid attention to Tanner, but he locked eyes with Ian Greenwood of the UK Local Authorities Pension Fund when he advocated stripping Murdoch of the chairman role. “We want to thank you very much for making us a lot of money,” he said speaking to Murdoch directly, “but this won’t go away as an issue.” Greenwood added, “I’d urge you reconsider the issue .. give investors a timeline in the public arena.” Murdoch said that he and his family are aligned with other shareholders who want to “build a great company.” Read More »
That’s the most intriguing question ahead of the media giant’s annual shareholders’ meeting, to be held tomorrow in Los Angeles. The country’s two largest public pension funds — the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)– say that they voted against re-electing CEO Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Deputy COO James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch, to the board. (CalSTRS opposed the entire slate.) They’re also lined up to support a resolution by Christian Brothers Investment Services that would require the chairman to be independent of management. The anti-Murdoch efforts probably won’t prevail. The family controls 38.4% of the voting shares of News Corp and a close ally, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has 7%. Still, it could be a major embarrassment if half of the independent investors line up against the CEO. Several investors say that his concentrated power contributed to the lax oversight of the UK tabloids at the center of the company’s hacking and bribery scandals. Read More »
Rupert Murdoch went on a Twitter tear this morning, taking jabs at President Obama and Joe Biden, especially the latter’s performance in Thursday’s VP debate. The News Corp CEO declared it would be a “nightmare for Israel if … Read More »
The phone-hacking scandal that has rocked News Corp’s UK print assets last year looks set to stay in the news for a good long while as court cases move forward. Late last week, shareholder groups in the UK, U.S. and Australia began rattling the cages ahead of the company’s … Read More »
UPDATE, 2:38 PM: Add the influential ISS Proxy Advisory Services to the shareholder guidance firms that support the proposal favoring an independent chairman at News Corp. “Based on such issues as the phone hacking allegations and the board’s response, as well as other problematic board actions over recent years, including unwarranted adjustments made under the company’s compensation program in the most recent fiscal year, it appears that shareholders would benefit from increased independent leadership of the board,” it says in a new report. ISS adds that the lead director lacks the power “to counterbalance the combined CEO/chairman role.” Still, ISS recommends a vote for all the board candidates — a change from last year when it opposed all nominees except for James Breyer and Joel Klein.
PREVIOUS, 1:25 PM: The odds are slim that a resolution by Christian Brothers Investment Services that would require the chairman to be independent of management will succeed at the company’s shareholders’ meeting in Los Angeles on October 16: Murdoch and his family control about 40% of the voting shares and like things the way they are. Still, several shareholders hope to make this a big issue — and it’s won the support of advisory firms Hermes Equity Ownership Services and Glass Lewis. The proposal says that following disclosures of widespread hacking and bribery at News Corp’s UK tabloids, an independent chair would enable the company to “create greater independence and objectivity on the board, begin to rebuild the public confidence and trust that is critical to a major news organization, and assure shareholders that governance failures are being addressed.” Glass Lewis agrees. It says that “vesting a single person with both executive and board leadership concentrates too much oversight in a single person and inhibits the independent oversight intended to be provided by the board on behalf of shareholders.” The firm takes a dim view of News Corp’s governance. It gives the company a “D” grade in linking executive pay to performance and is urging shareholders to oppose five board candidates: Natalie Bancroft, David DeVoe, James Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, and Arthur Suskind.
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Rupert Murdoch On Future Of Newspapers
Rupert Murdoch restated his faith in the long-term future of newspapers in a weekend address at the annual News Awards in Sydney. Murdoch said that splitting News Corp into separate entertainment and publishing companies next year would see both strive to “dominate against our competitors by providing and distributing the most informative and entertaining content in the world”. He added, “Print will be with us for many, many years”, but we must also provide our readers with the greatest news experience possible on other platforms”. The address was intended as a morale booster for News Ltd.’s journalists after a sweeping restructure by chief executive Kim Williams, which resulted in an estimated 300 layoffs. – Don Groves Read More »
It’s especially helpful to have ties to pay TV, although tech execs once again dominated the top slots in Forbes’ latest list of the 400 richest people in America. Bill Gates is in first place with a net worth estimated at $66B. He’s followed by investor Warren Buffett ($46B) and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison ($41B). But Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg was the biggest loser, if the word can be applied to anyone on this list: With the recent decline in his company’s stock, his net worth fell $8.1B vs last year — the biggest drop on the Forbes list. He ended up this year at No. 36 with $9.4B, tied with News Corp‘s Rupert Murdoch. The average person on the list had a net worth of $4.2B. That’s up from $3.8B last year, and is the highest the average has been for more than a decade. Read More »
News Corp. director Andrew Knight has been named chairman of Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd, the UK subsidiary that publishes The Times and The Sunday Times. Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of Times Newspapers … Read More »
Apparently so according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, who’s writing a book about Fox News and its founder. Although Ailes’ current deal runs to next summer, his lawyer, Peter Johnson — who’s also a Fox News contributor — has … Read More »
UK Phone-Hacking Could Haunt Murdochs For Three More Years
Rupert Murdoch could be 84 years old before the British police complete multiple investigations into The News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who’s in charge of three overlapping probes into alleged criminal wrongdoing by journalists, said the task may continue through 2015, according to the Guardian. Akers, who is retiring in October, told a Commons home affairs select committee that “resources have been factored in for the next three years.” She said the force had identified more than 4,700 potential phone-hacking victims and found 1,069 were likely to have had their voicemail messages intercepted. So far 79 people have been arrested including former News International legal adviser Tom Crone, former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson. Akers said the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service would consider the likelihood of further criminal prosecutions, adding, “We are now prioritising getting cases through court.” Scotland Yard still has 185 officers working on the investigations.
Network Ten Shares Slide To Record Low
Australia’s Network Ten board members Lachlan Murdoch (chairman), Gina Rinehart and Jack Cowin seem powerless to stop a steep slide in the company’s fortunes. The share price hit a record low of 37.5 cents today, down from 80 cents in March, and broker Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research forecasts it will sink as as low as 30 cents. Ten’sratings have taken a hit from the failures of three Australian shows launched after the London Olympics, Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive and Don’t Tell the Bride, which resulted in the exit of chief programmer David Mott. The only new show that has any traction is Puberty Blues, a drama inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 feature. The ratings of Ten’s main channel have declined by 5% this year while Nine is up by 5.3% and Seven is off by 0.3%. The broker said Ten is “working hard to reposition itself and build out a new programming lineup, however we see continued ratings/revenue share risk given the large number of hours that need to be replaced and expect the TV ad market to remain challenging.” - Don Groves
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Even though the stock’s up 26.6% to $23.53 over the last three months, some analysts say the company isn’t about to run out of gas. This morning, Susquehanna Financial Group Vasily Karasyov says he expects “additional upside in the next 12 months” toward a target stock price of $28. That follows yesterday’s upgrade of News Corp stock to “overweight” from “neutral” by Barclays Equity Research’s Anthony DiClemente, who also has a target price of $28. Both analysts like the plan to spin the publishing operations off into a separate company. It should ease investor concerns that CEO Rupert Murdoch will make value-destroying deals, like his $5B acquisition of Dow Jones in 2007. That fear –which held the stock price down in what’s known as the ”Murdoch discount” — is “shrinking,” DiClemente says. “We are comfortable that there are no transformative and dilutive acquisitions coming down the pike.”
Related: Rupert Murdoch Collects $30 Million In Compensation For Fiscal 2012, A 10% Cut Read More »
Just about all of the top News Corp execs took a cut for the year that ended in June, even though the stock appreciated 33.2%. (The notable exception in the group is Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who was +35.4% to $21.1M including $4.1M in stock awards.) The company says in a proxy just filed at the SEC that in determining compensation the board considered the UK hacking and bribery scandals “including the closure of The News of the World, costs and expenses for the investigations, litigation and civil settlements, and the withdrawal of the proposal to acquire BSkyB.” But it also decided to base bonuses on a profit figure that doesn’t include the $224M in company payments to deal with the investigations. And for Deputy COO James Murdoch the Compensation Committee was “mindful” of his “decision to decline his entire fiscal 2011 annual bonus in light of the issues surrounding The News of the World and acknowledged that he was already adversely economically impacted by the U.K. and related investigations.”
Rupert Murdoch‘s $30M package includes $8.1M salary, $10.4M bonus, $3.5M in stock awards, $7.6M for pension and deferred compensation, and $384,611 in other compensation. COO Chase Carey follows with $24.8M, -17.9%. On paper, James Murdoch’s $16.8M is -6% — but since he didn’t take his $6M bonus, it’s actually +41%. Ailes’ package includes $67,773 for personal security and $155,091 for personal use of a corporate car — far more than any other exec received. Read More »
Embattled ex-News International chief Rebekah Brooks appeared in a London court this morning for 4 minutes to provide her name, home address and date of birth. She was in the dock at the Westminster Magistrates Court on charges of phone hacking that were lodged against her last month and was given conditional bail. The bail stipulates she can’t contact her six former colleagues who are facing similar charges, the she must reside at her home address and that she give a week’s notice if she intends to leave the country, UK media reports.
In early August, Rupert Murdoch’s former lieutenant was formally charged on three counts of alleged phone hacking. One was a general charge that could affect as many as 600 victims including celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Read More »
Controversial naked photos of Britain’s Prince Harry are available on the Internet, but after Rupert Murdoch‘s Sun newspaper published them on Friday, the Press Complaints Commission logged over 850 gripes. Murdoch responded – and launched what … Read More »
ITV2 Adds U.S. Drama, Comedies To Lineup
The UK’s ITV2 just announced a quartet of acquisitions of U.S. shows. ABC’s new supernatural drama 666 Park Avenue was picked up from Warner Bros. International Television Distribution. It stars Terry O’Quinn, Vanessa Williams, Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable and is set in a disturbing NYC building. No date has been set for its UK bow. ITV2 also picked up three comedies for air in 2013: 20th TV’s new sibling laffer Ben And Kate and NBC Universal Television Distribution’s new comedy Animal Practice and returning series Up All Night. Separately, Law & Order: UK has been commissioned for a seventh season by ITV1. Bradley Walsh and Paul Nicolls star in the Kudos Film and Television and Wolf Films production. The channel ordered 8 episodes to start shooting in November. They’ll be produced by Jane Hudson with Kudos’ creative director Jane Featherstone exec producing.
‘Rupert’ To Tread The Boards In Oz
Rupert Murdoch has inspired countless books and documentaries and now the mogul will be subject of a stage play. Written by David Williamson, whose film credits include Gallipoli and The Year Of Living Dangerously, and staged by Melbourne Theater Company, Rupert is due to open next August. No casting has been announced. Williamson says he was struck by the similarities between Murdoch and England’s Richard III, “He was someone who everyone discounted at the start but who worked his way up to becoming king … Rupert does share something with Richard III, he is not homicidal but he has that great combination of charm, intelligence, boldness, ruthlessness, deviousness.” Evidently the play will be factually-based, as Williamson explains, “His life has been too interesting to fictionalize, there would be no point.” Nor will it be ideological. He says, “If you make a thesis play ‘Rupert is bad’ or ‘Rupert is evil’, it’s not going to work.” Separately, Screen Australia is funding a documentary entitled Murdoch, produced by Electric Pictures for Australia’s SBS and Britain’s ITV, with sales handled by BBC Worldwide and Ten Alps. - Don Groves
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UPDATED WITH VIDEO: In a Q&A session this morning, Elisabeth Murdoch told the Edinburgh TV Festival, “I really harbor no ambition for that top job.” She was referring to her family’s News Corp, where a succession plan … Read More »
Britain’s Labour Party Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has made no secret of her distaste for Rupert Murdoch’s long reach in the UK media sector. On Wednesday – the eve of a highly-anticipated speech by … Read More »