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Rupert Watch, Murdoch Faces Shareholder Rebellion in UK


By Michael Collins

News Corporation is facing an investor rebellion in Great Britain that parallels a similar rebellion occurring in the United States. (Image)

“A consortium of 18 heavyweight investors is calling for Mr Murdoch to stand down as chairman in the interests of good corporate governance and be replaced by an independent figure who is seen to be acting in the best interests of shareholders.” The Independent, July 20

The investors have filed a resolution to remove Murdoch from power at the October News Corp shareholders meeting. The resolution will accompany those already filed by large investors in the United States.

What upsets the 18? Murdoch and his family have too much control. That control serves the family well, but not the shareholders. Specifically, recent scandals have hurt News Corp performance.

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“The resolution is the latest in a series of attempts by some independent investors in News Corp to wrest power from the Murdoch family. But following the turbulent recent history of the company, in which its share price has been damaged by the phone-hacking scandal and it has failed in an attempt to take full control of BSkyB, the new resolution is thought to have a stronger chance of success than previous actions.” The Independent, July 20

Let’s cut to the end of Murdoch’s struggle to hang onto his empire. When News Corporation announced a reorganization splitting the company into two separate entities, the Wall Street Journal did a nice summary of profitability for the new entities. The future for high growth revenues at News Corporation is in cable TV. The bulk of cable growth comes from the 39% share Murdoch owns of the UK satellite/cable operation, BSkyB.

The Sky is Falling

The phone hacking and other scandals prevented Murdoch from acquiring the remaining 61% of BSkyB, a move that was almost assured before criminal and immoral behavior at News Corp newspapers caught fire with the public starting on July 4, 2011.

The phone hacking and other scandals may very well result in Murdoch losing the existing 39% if UK regulators determine that Murdoch is not a “fit and proper person” to own a major media company.

In 2011, News Corp newspapers, movies, and broadcast television had relatively modest profits on multibillion dollar revenue streams. Movies fluctuate based on the popularity of titles released. Newspapers and broadcast television are treading water but face diminished popularity and eventual replacement over time.

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Cable TV operations are the lone high growth operations with a 35% profit on $8.8 billion in revenue. News Corp’s 39% of BSkyB contributes more than half of the 2011 cable profits.

And Murdoch’s illegal and immoral behavior related to phone hacking already cost the company total BSkyB ownership. His behavior and that of his family may cost the company the remaining 39%.

The shareholders have enough to topple Murdoch even if he retains 39% of the British cable operation. If he’s tossed out of the UK cable business, the financial gem of the empire, rebellious shareholders should prevail without any doubt.

Murdoch is supposed to be a master of the universe, a media genius, the irresistible force that can move any object. In fact, he’s a poor strategist, unable to recognize the goose laying the golden eggs, and unwilling to curb his ego and an appetite for money that he doesn’t need.

Murdoch had one high growth operation, BSkyB, with a virtual monopoly in the UK. As David Wolf pointed out, Murdoch preferred to obsess on his news operations. He couldn’t even manage those properties. That abject failure may cost him everything. It can’t happen soon enough.

When you relentlessly bully, bribe, and blackmail to succeed, you’re not a winner. You are just a sociopath. It’s axiomatic.


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