James Murdoch, the presumed heir to the News Corp media empire, got a sharp rebuke from shareholders when nearly 35% of the company’s investors voted against his reelection to the board.
But even that number masked the enormity of the dissent against the youngest son of News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, based on the voting results disclosed in a regulatory filing as 40% of James Murdoch’s total approval vote of 65% came from shares held by his family, and another 7% came from News Corp’s largest individual shareholder, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.
Those votes are the only reason James got reelected — without them, nearly two-thirds of the votes went against him, enough to cast doubt over whether he has the credibility and support to eventually succeed his father.
“Clearly, shareholders are upset by the hacking scandal and the continued disproportionate control of the company by the Murdochs,” said Gabelli & Co analyst Brett Harriss.
Bob McCormick, chief policy officer at proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis, which had recommended News Corp shareholders vote against reelecting Murdoch and his children, said: “As you approach one-third votes against a director it’s a very significant rejection of that director. I think they should definitely rethink their position but given their history I doubt it.”
Investors gave Rupert Murdoch more support than his children, reelecting the company patriarch with nearly 85% approval, inclusive of his family’s votes. Absent those votes, 29% of News Corp shareholders voted against or abstained from voting for Rupert.
Shareholders also voted overwhemingly (99%) against a proposal to separate the chairman and CEO roles, apparently satisfied to have Murdoch hold both titles. Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan did not fare much better than his brother, garnering votes against his reelection of just under 34%.
Murdoch’s No. 2, Chase Carey, got a relatively positive vote from independent shareholders with 90% voting for his re-election. Reuters