Protest vote on Mur­doch’s role

Geelong Advertiser - - BUSINESS BEAT -

A STRONG protest vote against Ru­pert Mur­doch main­tain­ing the chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive posts at News Cor­po­ra­tion has sent a clear mes­sage, says an Aus­tralian in­sti­tu­tional in­vestor ag­i­tat­ing for change.

Some in­vestors, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian and over­seas su­per­an­nu­a­tion funds, have for the sec­ond year in a row put for­ward a res­o­lu­tion at News Corp’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing call­ing for an end to Mr Mur­doch hold­ing both posts.

While the res­o­lu­tion again failed to pass, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of Su­per­annu (ACSI), Ann Byrne, said the 30 per cent of votes cast sup­port­ing the mo­tion sent a clear mes­sage to the News Corp board.

Though Mr Mur­doch owns a 12 per cent eco­nomic in­ter­est in News Corp, the me­dia mogul holds 40 per cent of all votes un­der the com­pany’s two-class share struc­ture. The res­o­lu­tion would have passed if Mr Mur­doch’s 317.3 mil­lion votes were ex­cluded from the count.

Ms Byrne noted News Corp had made some changes af­ter ACSI and oth­ers last year called for im­proved cor­po­rate gov­er­nance at the global me­dia gi­ant, and the mat­ter would again be raised with News Corp’s in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors.

‘‘There will be con­tin­ued work be­hind the scenes,’’ she said.

‘‘They have lis­tened from this year to last year, so there­fore I would ex­pect them to take note of what share­hold­ers have said again this year.’’

An an­a­lyst at me­dia con­sul­tancy Fu­sion Strat­egy, Steve Allen, said those look­ing to buy News Corp shares needed to un­der­stand they were bet­ting on Mr Mur­doch.

‘‘In­sti­tu­tional share­hold­ers prob­a­bly see that if they ag­i­tate and if they can change things, they will un­lock some ex­tra value,’’ Mr Allen said.

‘‘But ob­vi­ously the ma­jor­ity of share­hold­ers think that the value of News Corp is in Ru­pert Mur­doch, and they go along with the fact there are only friends and fam­ily on the board and there are re­lat­ed­party transactions.

‘‘If you want to go on the ride with them, that’s what you go on the ride for.’’

News Corp stock closed the Aus­tralian trad­ing day up 27c at $24.54, while its non-vot­ing scrip gained 29c to $24.11.

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