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Phone Hacking: Can the Murdoch Clan Survive News Corp’s AGM

Posted on the 20 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Phone hacking: Can the Murdoch clan survive News Corp’s AGM

Rupert Murdoch, media mogul - but for how much longer? Photocredit: david_shankbone

Could the Murdoch clan soon be set to lose its grip on its international multi-media company, News Corp? Instead of the Fall of the House of Usher, will it be the House of Murdoch that comes crashing down? With enemies lining up against them, the Murdochs have their hands full: even Labour MP Tom Watson (who spoke vociferously against News Corp) has bought shares purely so he can attend the meeting and vote against them, reports The Atlantic Wire.

Three months after News Corp stopped bidding for BskyB, and was forced to close the scandal-ravaged the News of the World, and Rupert Murdoch himself was grilled by MPs over phone hacking, the board of News Corp is set to meet in Los Angeles on Friday. Are they too many Murdochs on the board? And will the others be able to change anything, given Rupert Murdoch’s 40 percent control of votes?

“I want to make sure the shareholders are fully informed about the things their company is doing in the U.K. For an organization that believes in freedom of speech, it would be pretty extraordinary if they tried to stop me being heard”, said Tom Watson, quoted on The Atlantic Wire.

Bloodlines are not everything. The controversy hasn’t gone away, said Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in The Financial Times. Rupert Murdoch (now 80 years old) is apparently “tiring of humility”, but threats to News Corp “remain serious.” The investigation into hacking is still going on, and law suits from hacking victims are proliferating. James Murdoch (Rupert’s son) is also set to face more interrogations, since his evidence has been challenged; new accusations are still appearing. And there are too many people with personal ties to Murdoch on the board: “Whatever the family’s talents, a bloodline cannot be the defining factor in corporate succession.” Rupert Murdoch looked like he’d do anything to save James – but with even “loyalists” briefing against him, it’s suddenly a possibility that he might also be “sacrificed”.

More gaga than gung-ho? James Murdoch hasn’t even been arrested yet, said Nicholas Wapshott on The Daily Beast. James is the favourite, “heir apparent to the worldwide media empire”, but he’s now admitted – or at least his lawyers have – that he “misled the parliamentary committee.” The News Corp AGM is usually a “snooze-fest”, but this year it’s likely to be a “circus.” Hardly any journalists will be allowed to attend the meeting – showing a “siege mentality.” Murdoch certainly is in trouble – four huge pension funds want the Murdochs given the heave-ho; but for all that, there’s hardly a chance of change. What people will be looking for is whether Murdoch shows himself as “more gaga than gung-ho.”

He’ll still be in charge, whatever happens. Still, said Richard Blackden on The Daily Telegraph, it will “take special effects beyond anything Hollywood could produce” to bring the board down. He’s got 40 per cent of the vote; Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud (a backer of Murdoch) has got 5 per cent – very close to the 51 percent needed. And all the hoo-hah hasn’t even made a difference to News Corp’s profits – “he’s still writing the script.” It’s silly to rely on shareholders to drive change – we learned that from the banking crisis.

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