For a second year in a row, News Corp. annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday involved a lot of shareholders firing disapproving questions at Rupert Murdoch, only to re-elect him and the companies 13 other board members. It wasn't a quiet victory. Protests ranged from criticism of Murdoch's Twitter feed to the share structure that ensures the Murdoch family stays in control of the $59 billion media conglomerate. Despite all the outrage over how Murdoch is running things, though, only 3.5 percent of News Corp. shareholders voted not to re-elect him as chairman.
This is kind of surprising since the main thrust of the protests involved Rupert Murdoch and his family's dominance over News Corp. operations. The proposal that garnered the most attention would have required the board to have an independent chair -- i.e. not Rupert Murdoch or any of his kids -- and managed to win 30 percent of the vote. Ironically, they would've had a majority if the Murdoch family itself didn't control 40 percent of the voting shares, another 7 percent belongs to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a friend of the family. This imbalance has not gone unnoticed by shareholders who also proposed a measure that called for restructuring of the shares in order to loosen the Murdoch family's iron grip on the company. It failed.
Murdoch himself was characteristically snide about the resistance. "Signs pretty peaceful, but any shareholders with complaints should take profits and sell!" he tweeted just before the meeting. (He later deleted the tweet.) That didn't go over super well with said shareholders. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, which was held at the 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles, somebody asked him to explain that tweet. "Oh, please!" Murdoch responded, swatting his hand as if the question were an annoying fly. "There are plenty of media stocks. So when you buy the stock, you know what the company is," Murdoch explained. "And if you don't like it, then you don't buy the stock."
One person we didn't hear too much from at the meeting was Rupert Murdoch's disgraced son James, who very publicly suffered a series of demotions after his widely criticized handling of the company's phone hacking scandal last year. James sat in a corner and kept to himself. It surely stung him a little when the votes came in for the News Corp. board, of which he is a member. James had the second most votes against his reelection, 16.3 percent of them to be exact. The only person more unwanted on News Corp. board was Lachlan Murdoch, his brother, who's not even on the board.
None of that really affects Rupert Murdoch, though. He will be the king of News Corp. for at least another year, and when it's time for the next election, the votes are stacked in his favor.