2010 News Corp AGM transcript


July 21, 2011

Here is a full transcript from our exchanges with Rupert Murdoch at the News Corp AGM in New York on October 15, 2010, and click here for the audio. Also, check out this special package of our coverage and commentary across the media on the hacking scandal.

Stephen Mayne: Good morning chairman. Stephen Mayne, I've flown over from Australia for today. First up, are you personally going to attend Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington on October 30?

Rupert Murdoch: I've never heard of it.

Stephen Mayne: You've never heard of Jon Stewart?

Rupert Murdoch: no, I will be in Australia.

Stephen Mayne: You will be in Australia - I thought you may have been in Australia. I've got some reading for you for your Australia trip. It is a book that was launched on Wednesday called Man Bites Murdoch. It's the story of Bruce Guthrie the former editor-in-chief of the Herald Sun - your father's old paper, the biggest selling newspaper in Australia. I would just like to provide you with a copy - so you can read it on the plane if that is okay.

Rupert Murdoch: you needn't worry - thank you.

Pause whilst walk to front and place book behind Rupert's name tag on the head table, next to where he was standing at the lectern.

Stephen Mayne: I would also like to ask you, have you read Bruce Dover's book Rupert's adventures in China?

Rupert Murdoch: no.

Stephen Mayne: could any director who has read Rupert's adventures in China please raise their hand? (No director raises their hand) Now I think that is a slightly disturbing development. I mean this was your senior executive in Hong Kong, doing a tell-all book about how, apparently, billions of dollars were lost by shareholders in China, and you're saying that not one of the directors has bothered to read the book. Is that actually true? (Again, none of the 15 directors present raises their hand)

Rupert Murdoch: I don't think the book is true...

Stephen Mayne: how would you know if you haven't read it? The other one that has just been launched was Tears of a Clown...

Rupert Murdoch: we made an investment in a company called STAR which is now showing a very good return.

Stephen Mayne: alright. You're turning 80 next March. You're the world's longest serving CEO - 57 years in the chair...

Rupert Murdoch: I don't think so.

Stephen Mayne:
Do you know who's served longer at a public company?

Rupert Murdoch: I don't know - I'm sure there has been...

Stephen Mayne: alright. What are the plans when you turn 80? No possible intentions of slowing down at all?

Rupert Murdoch: No. When my health gives out, I will get out of the way and not before unless the boards decides to remove me, but that is another matter.

Stephen Mayne: what's your personal view of the phone bugging issue in the UK involving Andy Coulson and Clive Goodson the former Royals reporter. There has been a lot of press about it.

Rupert Murdoch: we have very very strict rules. There was an an incident more than 5 years ago. The person who bought a bugged phone conversation was immediately fired and in fact he subsequently went to jail. There has been two parliamentary inquiries, which have found no further evidence or any other thing at all. If anything was to come to light, we challenge people to give us evidence, and no-one has been able to. If any evidence comes to light, we will take immediate action like we took before.

Stephen Mayne: did you read the 5000-word piece in the New York Times claiming they had spoken to no less than 12 former editors and reporters for the News of the World, confirming that the practice was wide spread?

Rupert: No.

Stephen Mayne: you haven't read that New York Times piece?

Rupert Murdoch: No.

Stephen Mayne: The actual committee said in it's report, there was "deliberate obfuscation" by our executives, there was "collective amnesia" by the executives and you've just demonstrated this again, and this point ....

Rupert Murdoch: I'm sorry. Journalists who have been fired, who are unhappy, or work for other organisations - I don't take them as an authority, and least of all I don't take The New York Times as authority which is the most motivated of all.

Stephen Mayne: I would like to refer to page 16 of the proxy statement, where you say "directors are encouraged to attend and participate" in the company's annual meeting to stockholders. I would like to direct a couple of questions now to both Viet Dinh and Sir Rod Eddington. Sir Rod is our lead independent director and Viet Dinh as chair of our nomination and corporate governance committee. Gentlemen, could you please tell shareholders what steps you've taken to ensure that the code of ethics that this company has on its website and claims to adhere to, has been followed in relation to the phone hacking issue in the UK.

Viet Dinh:
The code of ethics and standards of business conduct obviously describe the overall framework through which we govern ourselves. We trust our executives, our management and our personnel to follow them, and where infractions are made, appropriate actions are taken as the chairman has indicated. At the board level the audit committee obviously has oversight over any allegations of financial mismanagement or impropriety. The board, including its nominated corporate governance committee, has oversight over other risk areas and other allegations of impropriety. I think these procedures have served us well in the past, and will continue to serve us well into the future.

Sir Rod Eddington:
To add to that Mr Mayne, the audit committee also, we have a sensible and comprehensive whistleblower policy, and in addition to the things Viet Dinh has mentioned, when concerns are raised internally, confidentially, by employees about conduct within the organisation, they are handled and reviewed in a substantial way, and those concerns are brought to the audit committee. So the audit committee also uses that mechanism, and in my experience, the organisation takes seriously any breaches of conduct and the code of ethics.

Rupert Murdoch: I think that answers you fully and can we move on to the next question?

Stephen Mayne: Okay. The Daily Mirror today has a story headlined 'Row grows over David Cameron links with media barron Rupert Murdoch', and a quote from the story, 'Sky TV boss Murdoch is believed to have gone into Number 10 for a 45 minute session within 24 hours of Mr Cameron becoming prime minister'. Is that true?

Rupert Murdoch: No. I'll tell you exactly what happened. Mr Cameron, 3 or 4 days later, when I was in London some weeks after he was elected, he asked me to call in so I thought it respectful to do so. He thanked me for the support and I congratulated him and I left and I had no more than 5 minutes with him. Nothing else was discussed.

Stephen Mayne: So no cuts to the BBC budget discussed?

Rupert Murdoch: No.

Stephen Mayne: Just a couple more. Matthew Freud's comments about Fox News, what's your view about them? People have commented that they reflected elements of your family. Sending a very public message that they want you to reign in Roger Ailes, Mr Beck, concern about damage to the company, what's your public response to what your son-in-law said about Fox News?

Rupert Murdoch: My public and private response is that he could not have been more wrong.

Stephen Mayne:
Apparently 300 advertisers are refusing to advertise on Mr Beck's program....

Rupert Murdoch: That's not true!

Stephen Mayne: ...well, 297 then, apparently.

Rupert Murdoch: No, no.

Stephen Mayne: well how many?

Rupert Murdoch: maybe 4 or 5 have been moved over to Mr O'Reilly's program. No-one has taken any money off the channel.

Stephen Mayne: There are reports that even Mr Ailes is a bit concerned about Glenn Beck and him promoting his personal interests too much on the show - damaging Fox News, being seen as too partisan, this can play out in potential...'

Rupert Murdoch: I don't know whether you watch Fox News, but Mr Beck is the least of our stars who take liberties in promoting their interests.

Stephen Mayne: So you're 100% comfortable with everything Mr Beck is doing on behalf of shareholders?

Rupert Murdoch: I don't agree with everything that is said on Fox News, because we have all opinions. Unlike other channels we are completely fair and open and we have Democrats being interviewed, Republicans, we have people come on and argue. All sides of everything, and I don't agree with everything that is said naturally.

Stephen Mayne: Do you think the BSkyB takeover, potentially, could be hindered by the UK politicians looking at Fox News and saying, wouldn't fancy that particular approach over here. Don't you think that it's...

Rupert Murdoch: it is there - by law. Already available to anybody in England, as is Al Jazeera and many channels. Sky News has won awards for ... there are laws about this in England too, Sky News as it stands today, and remember we have been ruled to have been in charge of, be in control of Sky already. If you are worried about that, that we could have done that - we couldn't, but if we could, we could have done it already. We have other people who want to ask questions, you've about had your serve.

Stephen Mayne: two more issues and I'm done. CGI Glass Lewis, the proxy advisory firm, has their list of the 25 most egregious or overpaid executives in the S&P500, they rank you at number 18. The 18th most egregious or overpaid or at least hard to justify...




Rupert Murdoch:
who is this?

Stephen Mayne: CGI Glass Lewis, one of the two big proxy advisory firms. They tell shareholders how to vote their stock. Warren Buffett gets by on $100,000 a year; you're a multi-billionaire. Why do you need to be paid such a huge sum that is actually rated as of one of the most over-the-top payments in corporate America?

Rupert Murdoch: I have a fraction of Mr Buffett's wealth, and Mr Buffett doesn't have to do that, he only has to sell a few shares every year to have many many billions to play with.

Stephen Mayne: My last issue is that when you left Australia, or the company re-incorporated to Delaware from Adelaide in 2004, you undertook to come back to Adelaide every year and have a briefing with shareholders and you maintained that commitment through to until 2007. You used to get 300-400 turning up - far more than 40-50 here, and then in 2007 we had a really good exchange and you canned it, yet you are coming to Australia every October to present awards to your journalists. Do you think after your 80th birthday next year, you could re-introduce the Adelaide shareholder meeting? Not every year, but maybe every 2nd or 3rd year, because you do have a ...

Rupert Murdoch: absolutely, I will consider that. I enjoy it. It's mainly retirees who come and we talk about old times. It's very nice.

Stephen Mayne: Finally, well done for firing Glenn Milne, that journalist of yours who drunkenly pushed me off the stage at the Walkley Awards in 2006, live on national television - it was a disgrace. You defended him at that last gathering we had, but you've fired him since, so I would like to say congratulations for finally doing that, and thank you for your time today.

Rupert Murdoch: I wasn't responsible for firing him, but that's fine. I didn't know anything about it.