NewsCorp shareholders say pay’s OK …

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009

Judging by the headlines, NewsCorp (NWSA) and its cantankerous chief, Rupert Murdoch, have riled up plenty of folks. To name just a few: Democrats in the U.S. and Labour Party MPs in the UK; Cablevision negotiators and cable television viewers (and lawmakers); shareholder activists and corporate-governance watchdogs.

But look at the results of the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting on on Friday, and you get a very different picture. (The results were in an 8-K filed shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday.) True, James Murdoch — son of Rupert and head of the company’s European and Asian operations, as well as no. 8 on Fortune magazine’s list of the highest-paid businessfolk under 40 — got the biggest number of votes withheld of any of the company’s directors. Yet it works out to just 11% of votes cast. (Natalie Bancroft was in the bottom three as well, losing 10% of the vote).

And despite a spurt of attention in August to changes in NewsCorp’s executive bonus structure — shifting more pay to performance bonuses that leave Rupert Murdoch eligible for a $12.5 million to $25 million bonus, and James Murdoch potentially receiving $6 million to $12 million — shareholders handily rejected a shareholder proposal to implement a “say on pay” vote, 63% to 37%. (In the fiscal year ended June 30, Rupert took home $8.1 million in salary and another $8.4 million in stock and options, among other compensation.)

Still, the annual meeting itself seems to have been a lively affair, judging by an Australian Broadcasting Corp. piece on it, complete with shareholders pressing questions about NewsCorp’s GOP-centered political contributions, and even a kerfuffle over the microphone.

For a company that so often emphasizes its news-gathering reach, NewsCorp is certainly good at making headlines itself. Yet despite trailing major indexes during much of recent history, its shareholders don’t seem inclined to complain much.

Image source: World Economic Forum via Flickr


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