Murdoch takes on shareholders
LOS ANGELES — Rupert Murdoch jousted with disgruntled shareholders Friday as the 80-year-old chairman and CEO of News Corp. defended his handling of a phone-hacking scandal in Britain and deflected any notion that he plans to step down soon.
More than 100 protesters gathered outside the 20th Century Fox studio lot where News Corp., which owns Mail Tribune parent company Southern Oregon Media Group, held its annual shareholders meeting. Inside, with his sons Lachlan and James seated before him in the front row, Murdoch parried allegations that he had poor oversight of the company, sometimes cutting off speakers to jab in an insult or dispute a fact.
Votes from the firms' shareholders still were being counted in the afternoon but the company said a proposal from the Christian Brothers Investment Services to force the company's chairman to be an independent director had failed. Few had held out any hope they could overcome Murdoch's control of 40 percent of voting shares through a family trust, or the 7 percent stake Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal had almost certainly cast in support of him. "It was pretty perfunctory," said Rev. Seamus Finn, who attended on behalf of the organization.
Questions and comments from shareholders focused on the phone-hacking scandal, which caused the company this summer to shutter the tabloid News of the World and drop its $12 billion bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting. Britons and other people worldwide were outraged to learn that a private investigator hired by the paper had hacked into the cellphone voicemail of 13-year-old Milly Dowler, potentially impeding a police investigation and giving false hope to her family. Dowler was later found to be murdered.
The phone-hacking scandal has forced the resignation of two of London's top police officers, ousted top executives such as Dow Jones & Co. CEO Les Hinton, and claimed the job of Prime Minister David Cameron's former spin doctor, Andy Coulson.