Operation Murdoch democracy - it's game on

Stephen Mayne
December 2, 2018

Can our little website end Rupert Murdoch's News Corp gerrymander?

It's game on for one of the biggest shareholder activism campaigns Australia has seen and News Corp's Rupert Murdoch is in the frame.

The proxy documents for this year's News AGM were lodged overnight and we're having a vote on the very issue which goes to the heart of Rupert's control of the company – the dual-class share structure.

The cold hard facts of the situation are that News Corp shares would go up if the board backed my resolution, as the supporting statement on page 18 explains. Instead, Rupert prefers to suppress value to maintain his family's control and the arguments put up by the board on page 19 are weak to the point of being pathetic.

If Frank Lowy was prepared to go from 30% to 10% at Westfield when all his vehicles were put together, why won't Rupert do the same and then simply rely on his record and market confidence to stay at the helm. Most other company leaders do that.

I'm planning a global campaign on this issue and the next six weeks will be a fascinating test of the editorial independence of Rupert's media outlets across the world.

How can the guy who wanted to spread democracy to Iraq resist calls to embrace standard democracy at his own company, especially now that News Corp owns the world's most prestigious business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.

The AFR's Chanticleer columnist Alan Jury opened the mainstream media batting this morning with a back-page piece that included the following:

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $9 billion and control the destiny of a global organisation with an enterprise valuation of $85 billion. He is one of the most powerful men in the world. If he thinks about professional corporate irritant Stephen Mayne (net worth: not much) at all, it's probably only for a nano-second.

That's about to change. No matter how irritating people may find Mayne, he raises a valid corporate governance point in respect to News Corp's two-tier voting structure. Mayne has petitioned for a motion to be put to News shareholders recommending the company abandon its existing capital structure, which conveys preferential voting power to Murdoch, and create a company with just one class of share and one vote per share.

I'm predicting that the major proxy advisory houses and a majority of the independent shareholders will back the resolution. Once that happens, it then comes down to the so-called independent directors.

People like Sir Rod Eddington surely can't keep going on defending the indefensible.