Elisabeth Murdoch Will Not Join News Corp Board
A Murdoch will not join the News Corp board. From The Wall Street Journal: online.wsj.com
By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO And DANA CIMILLUCA
News Corp. and Elisabeth Murdoch have shelved plans for her to join the board of the media giant for now, as the company attempts to defuse shareholder concerns about its corporate governance.
The 42-year-old daughter of News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, Ms. Murdoch was expected to join the board as part of her return to the company through News Corp.’s acquisition of the Shine Group, the television-production company she runs.
Mr. Murdoch said in a news release in February that he expected her to do so when the £415 million ($680 million) deal was completed. The deal closed in April.
News Corp. independent director Viet Dinh said in a statement Friday that Ms. Murdoch suggested “she felt it would be inappropriate” to join the company board at its annual meeting later this year. Mr. Dinh said the company’s independent directors agreed.
The eruption of a years-long phone-hacking scandal at the company’s U.K. newspaper unit has raised shareholder concerns that the board is too beholden to Mr. Murdoch. The Murdoch family maintains a 40% voting stake that gives it effective control of the company, which owns The Wall Street Journal.
Three Murdochs—80-year old Rupert, 38-year old James and 39-year old Lachlan—already serve on the company board. In all, seven of the company’s 16 board seats are held by Murdochs and News Corp. executives.
The Shine deal has also been a lightning rod for corporate governance complaints.
In March, several News Corp. shareholders sued the company in Delaware Chancery Court, claiming the takeover of Shine was a sweetheart deal for Mr. Murdoch’s daughter. Among other things, they sought to block her appointment to the board, according to a copy of their complaint.
News Corp. filed a motion to dismiss the suit.
Mr. Dinh said the board and Ms. Murdoch hope the move “reaffirms that News Corp aspires to the highest standards of corporate governance and will continue to act in the best interests of all stakeholders.”
A spokesman for Ms. Murdoch said she had no further comment beyond the statement from Mr. Dinh.
In recent weeks, pressure has mounted for the company to overhaul its corporate governance.
Some institutional investors, such as California Public Employees’ Retirement System, have made public statements criticizing the company’s ownership structure and expressed a desire to meet with executives.
Ms. Murdoch’s brother James has had to fend off calls from some BSkyB shareholders for him to surrender his chairmanship of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC. The U.K. pay-TV system is 39% owned by News Corp. The BSkyB board recently reiterated its unanimous support for James Murdoch.
News Corp. directors are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Los Angeles, ahead of the company’s fiscal year-end earnings release the next day, according to people familiar with the matter.
The board is expected to discuss what to do with the nearly $12 billion in cash the company had on its balance sheet as of March.