News Corp. shareholders vote heavily against Rupert Murdoch's sons
In a challenge to Rupert Murdoch’s family succession plans, more than one-third of votes cast by News Corp. shareholders were opposed to returning the media mogul's two sons, James and Lachlan, to the board.
The company's 80-year-old chairman and chief executive fared much better -- winning the backing of an overwhelming majority of the votes cast in Friday's election, according to a document filed late Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Rupert Murdoch collected 86% of the votes cast, although a sizable number of shareholders, representing 12 million votes, abstained. All the company's directors, including the three Murdochs, won a majority of the votes cast -- an outcome nearly assured because Murdoch and his family control 40% of the voting shares.
Still, shareholders signaled their unhappiness with the Murdoch family. The elder Murdoch has long indicated that he would like one of his children to succeed him in running the $33-billion-a-year media conglomerate, which owns the Fox television network, Fox News Channel, 20th Century Fox film studio, HarperCollins publishing and a stable of newspapers including the Wall Street Journal.
News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, 38, has been considered the heir apparent. However, he has been tarnished by the British phone hacking scandal engulfing the company, and garnered the fewest votes of any director in the election. Thirty-five percent of the votes cast opposed his return to the board, raising questions about his future at News Corp.
Murdoch has been called to appear before Parliament on Nov. 10 for a second time to answer more questions about the extent of his knowledge of the eavesdropping debacle at the company's now-defunct News of the World tabloid. Operatives for the paper listened to voice mail messages left for members of the royal family, celebrities and crime victims.
Fresh questions about the extent of James Murdoch’s knowledge about the illicit reporting practices employed by the London tabloid's journalists arose after two former News Corp. employees contradicted statements he made this summer to a committee of Parliament.
Murdoch's 40-year-old son, Lachlan, fared only slightly better than his brother. Thirty-four percent of the votes cast opposed his return to the board. He left the company's management in 2005 after a clash with senior executives but remains a News Corp. director.
In contrast, Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey received strong support from the company's shareholders, garnering 91% of the votes cast. Former New York city school Chancellor Joel Klein collected 96% of the votes cast.
-- Dawn C. Chmielewski and Meg James
Photo of Rupert Murdoch, right, chairman and chief executive of News Corp., and his son James Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp. in Europe and Asia, in London. Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/European Pressphoto Agency.