LOS ANGELES — Media mogul Rupert Murdoch left little doubt who is running the show at News Corp.
At the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Los Angeles Friday, Murdoch argued with — and at time ridiculed — some of the speakers, who called for greater board oversight in the wake of th
e phone hacking scandal engulfing his company.
The company’s chairman and chief executive then abruptly ended the gathering after about 90 minutes, and in a surprising move did not disclose the results of a vote to see whether he and his sons would remain on the board.
“I think we’ve had enough questions,” Murdoch told the crowd of 100 people. “I declare the meeting finished.”
Murdoch said the results of the vote would be submitted later Friday to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Two prominent investor advisory firms recommended shareholders vote against returning Murdoch and his two sons, James and Lachlan, to the board of directors. Others wanted News Corp. to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive, which currently are held by the 80-year-old Murdoch.
Murdoch opened the meeting at the Zanuck Theater on the 20th Century Fox movie studio lot in West Los Angeles by striking a contrite tone, acknowledging the gravity of the phone hacking scandal in Britain that has consumed his company for the past four months.
“If we hold others to account, we must hold ourselves to account,” Murdoch said. “We cannot just be a profitable company; we need to be a principled company.”
But as soon as investors went to the microphone to challenge his control and advocate changes to the board that would provide better oversight, Murdoch attempted to rebuff them. He opened the floor to voting after just four speakers had the opportunity to voice their concerns.
“I’m not stopping you,” Murdoch said, amid protests from the room. “I’m declaring the polling open.”
After initially saying investors would be limited to one minute to make their remarks, the company relaxed that restriction and allowed critics to return time and again to the microphone.
Two of Murdoch’s harshest critics struggled to make their case — Tom Watson, a member of the British Parliament who is leading the hacking investigation, and Stephen Mayne, an Australian activist shareholder who formerly worked for one of Murdoch’s papers. Mayne said he never criticized Murdoch while working at News Corp.
“You have made up for it since,” Murdoch said, eliciting hoots of laughter from those in the room. Indeed, Mayne and Murdoch’s frequent exchanges provided comic relief for those at the meeting.