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Rupert Murdoch calls in big guns to quell rebellion

Non-executive directors hold talks with leading investors after resolution calls on tycoon to quit

By Ian Burrell

Senior figures at News Corporation have attempted to see off an investor rebellion over Rupert Murdoch's dominant position at the head of the media empire.

Two of News Corp's non-executive directors – Sir Rod Eddington, the company's senior independent director, and Andrew Knight, a former chairman of News International – held discussions in London last month with representatives of the powerful Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), which has backed a resolution calling for Mr Murdoch to stand down from his position as chairman and chief executive of News Corp.

The resolution, which will be discussed at News Corp's annual shareholder meeting in Los Angeles in October, is supported by several mainstream British investors including Aviva and Legal & General.

A consortium of 18 heavyweight investors are 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.

LAPFF, a coalition of pension funds with total assets of £115bn, said the meeting on "governance issues" had been "very positive" and that it had been encouraged by the willingness of the News Corp non-executives to engage in discussion on governance reform. It is thought that the News Corp non-executive directors have met other investors with similar concerns.

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 BSky B, the new resolution is thought to have a stronger chance of success than previous actions.

"If it gets anywhere near 50 per cent [support] of independent share- holders then I think the company has a problem if it doesn't decide to act," said Ian Greenwood, the LAPFF chairman.

He said the concerns were related to reputational damage to the company arising from "concentration of power" and its effect on share price, rather than any criticism of Mr Murdoch's actions.

Mr Murdoch has recently shown an inclination to lessen his grip on the company by splitting News Corp into two and giving up his chief executive's role at the smaller publishing division of the business. But dissenting investors feel he must also reduce his position at the head of the more important entertainments division.

Living with Wendi is like being in war zone, claims nanny

A "disgruntled" former nanny who looked after the children of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng is ruining any celebration the family might have prepared to mark the end of the Leveson Inquiry next week.

Mr and Mrs Murdoch have had to turn to their PRs to sort out allegations levelled by Ying-Shu Hsu, who tutored and looked after their daughters, Chloe and Grace.

Five years after an accident in the Murdoch's Beverly Hills kitchen, when the nanny alleges she fell over one of the children's tricycles and fractured her knee, sparking a lengthy legal battle which she eventually lost, Ms Hsu told the US website Gawker that living with Mrs Murdoch – who famously rushed to her husband's aid when he was attacked by a pie-wielding protester at a parliamentary hearing – was like being "in a war zone".

The account, which suggests dysfunctional parenting, class-driven meanness and Hollywood excess, was dismissed by a family spokesman as "unfounded and untrue".

James Cusick

Belfast Telegraph


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