News Corp. on the grill

Jennifer Collins Oct 21, 2011

News Corp. on the grill

Jennifer Collins Oct 21, 2011

Bob Moon: One commentator called today’s event Rupert Murdoch’s “rosebud” moment, referring to the famous lament of the publishing magnate in “Citizen Kane.”

But if the 80-year-old head of News Corporation was feeling regretful today, his brusque and combative demeanor didn’t reflect that. He vowed to put things right with the media empire’s British phone hacking scandal. But as he faced his annual meeting of shareholders here in Los Angeles, he was anything but deferential to the dozens of protesters who gathered at the Fox Studios lot.

Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins reports on the scene inside and outside.

Jennifer Collins: More than a hundred people rallied outside Fox Studios. One protestor wore an oversized Halloween mask that resembled Rupert Murdoch. Several others carried signs that said “Fire the Murdoch Mafia.”

Crowd: Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.

Los Angeles resident Lauren Steiner came over from Occupy L.A.

Lauren Steiner: I would like to see Rupert Murdoch, his sons and all the non-independent board members fired.

Things didn’t get any friendlier inside the meeting. One angry shareholder after the next bashed the company for poor corporate governance in the wake of the phone hacking scandal at The News of the World, the now-defunct British tabloid. Murdoch vowed to fix things.

Rupert Murdoch: That’s the position. We’ll put this right.

Still, there were challenges to Murdoch’s power in the company. Some suggested the corporate culture couldn’t change until the leadership did.

Seamus Finn (of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Washington, D.C.): Well, I would say you are at least the chief cheerleader in terms of the culture and in some ways, the person who…

Murdoch: Well you’re suggesting I’m a very bad person.

Finn: No I’m not.

Murdoch and shareholders loyal to him control nearly 50 percent of the vote. That gives the family and much of the board a lot of job security.

David Joyce is an analyst with Miller Tabak.

David Joyce: Clearly, this is what normally happens in a situation where you’ve got dual voting classes of stock — the Murdoch family owns 12 percent of the equity, but they own 40 percent of the vote.

Joyce says the fight over News Corp. is far from over.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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