THE backlash from the UK phone hacking scandal has resulted in a majority of independent News Corporation shareholders voting against the re-election of James and Lachlan Murdoch to the media giant’s board.
The belated release of voting numbers from the company’s annual general meeting, held in Los Angeles last week, reveals the extent of shareholder dissatisfaction with the incumbent members of the News Corp board.
Just under 35 per cent of shareholder votes went against the re-election of James Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corp International, which publishes the group’s British newspapers.
Lachlan Murdoch received a 33.7 per cent vote against his re-election.
Chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch was more comfortably re-elected, with 84.4 per cent of shareholders voting in favour.
A majority of the votes in favour of the directors are likely to have come from the Murdoch family, which holds about 38 per cent of News Corp shares.
The family’s key backer, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, holds a further seven per cent of shares.
The meeting featured criticism from some shareholders about the way News Corp handled the hacking scandal, while remuneration and corporate governance issues were also raised.
News Corp’s remuneration report for the 2010/11 financial year was passed with 65 per cent of votes in favour and 34.9 per cent of votes against.
As it is domiciled in the United States, News Corp is not governed by the recently introduced `two strikes’ rule in Australia.
The legislation introduced consequences for directors of companies that suffered two consecutive votes of more than 25 per cent against the remuneration report.
Meanwhile, a shareholder proposal to ensure the chairman of the company be an independent member of the board was overwhelmingly defeated, with 99.8 per cent voting against the move.
Several directors aside from members of the Murdoch family also received substantial votes against their re-election.
Natalie Bancroft, a trained opera singer and member of the family that used to own the Dow Jones media group, had 33.4 per cent of votes cast against her position.
Andrew Knight, the former head of News Corp’s UK operations, had 32.2 per cent of votes go against him, and Arthur Siskind, the company’s former general counsel, had 30.1 per cent of votes cast against him.
News Corp shares lost nine cents on the Australian securities exchange (ASX) on Tuesday, to $16.71. The non-voting scrip lost 10 cents to $16.46.