The Mayne Report.September 2012.
Here is the latest Mayne Report contributed by Stephen Mayne of www.maynereport.com. Stephen regularly writes the Mayne Report. We highly recommend that you subscribe for his very informative newsletter. Click Here to subscribe or to view the full report..
Dear Mayne Report Readers,
Welcome to another bumper email edition which covers all sorts of lively issues spanning politics, business and media.
Overpaid Rupert yields on board loyalists as shareholders put up 3 hostile resolutions
The 96 page proxy statement for the News Corp AGM was released this morning and we’re delighted that Rupert Murdoch has – as predicted in this piece celebrating Elisabeth Murdoch’s McTaggart lecture on The Drum last week – farewelled Andrew Knight and Arthur Siskind from the board as voting directors.
Knight and Siskind copped the biggest protest votes at last year’s AGM after Lachlan and James Murdoch and will be replaced by two right wing partisans, as was explained in a pre-recorded interview for The World Today that will air after 12.10pm today.
Then again, when you read the incredible Wikipedia entry of incoming News Corp director and former right wing Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe, maybe he is just the person to stand up to undemocratic Murdoch bullying and drive some hard reforms like he did in Bogota.
After also appointing former George W Bush Labour Secretary Elaine Chao to the board, News Corp arguably has the most politicised board of any major US-based global company.
So much for media companies displaying editorial independence. It is great that Rupert now has 2 female directors for the first time since a brief period in the late 1990s, but Elaine Chao is also a former paid Fox News contributor.
Viet Dinh, who wrote the controversial Patriot Act for George W Bush, is another leading independent News Corp director, as is Jose Maria Asnar, the former right wing Spanish President who lost office after backing the Iraq invasion. What all these people think and know about phone hacking, page 3 girls, The Simpsons, James Cameron, digital news models and realestate.com.au is not known.
However, it is not hard to guess how Fox News will play the last 2 months of the US Presidential campaign. Never before has a global media company emerged that played its politics so controversially across various countries and platforms.
News Corp’s 2011-12 pay figures have also been released today and in a shameful move which totally goes against the trend in Australia, James Murdoch scored a pay rise from $12 million to $17 million, as is explained in this LA Times piece. The bloke should have been fired for his role in the phone hacking cover-up.
Rupert scored a ridiculous 47% pay rise to $US33 million in 2010-11 and despite global austerity on executive largesse, he’s only come back by 10% to $US30 million in 2011-12. This will be a bitter pill to swallow for all those News Ltd journalists currently being shown the door and it will be interesting to see how News Ltd papers report these figures given the big coverage that other pay cuts have been getting.
There is no sign of Murdoch family dominance over News Corp receding. The board has failed to remove the highly conflicted Lachlan Murdoch – who competes with News Ltd for programming rights, stories and advertising dollars in Australia through his interest in DMG and Network Ten.
It has also failed to elevated Elisabeth Murdoch, although this might be more about her resisting her father’s requests (again, see last week’s piece in The Drum).
The October 16 AGM at the Zantuck Theatre inside the heavily fortified Fox Studios compound in Los Angeles will this year see 3 hostile shareholder resolutions promoting governance measures such as separating the role of Chairman and CEO and unwinding News Corp’s undemocratic gerrymander which sees the Murdoch family control 40% of the votes and just 13% of the stock.
Check out the details on page 7 of this 96 page proxy statement.
I did a brief interview with Jon Faine on 774 ABC Mebourne shortly before 10am this morning and also spoke to Brendan Trembath from The World Today. As the News Corp monitor for the Australian Shareholders Association, the question will once again come up about making the trip State-side for the AGM. After 11 encounters with Rupert at News Corp gatherings since 1999, maybe that is enough. Then again, the issues are many and varied and deserve a sold work out at the AGM. If you fancy supporting such a trip, see the item 2 down from here.
From profit season to AGM season
The 2011-12 profit reporting season is over and now the mail box is starting to fill-up with notices of meeting for the AGM season.
Leaving News Corp to one side, stand by for the biggest cuts we’ve ever seen in executive pay as boards finally stand up to greedy executives courtesy of the embarrassment factor around the new two-strikes legislation.
There will be plenty of interesting elements to the coming season. How many of last year’s 108 first strikes will translate to a second strike and the consequent board spill vote?
What will Nathan Tinkler’s great mate Mark Vaile say at the Whitehaven Coal AGM on November 1 in Sydney? Is Tinkler broke? Just how much debt sits behind his 21% stake in Whitehaven which is still worth about $670 million, even after the stock halved from $6 to $3.
How will highly regarded media analyst Peter Cox go as an outside candidate for the Fairfax Media board at the AGM in Melbourne on October 24? Check out the impressive Cox CV here.
Will Gina Rinehart finally answer questions in public at the Network Ten AGM in Sydney on December 6?
How will the Get-Up! EGM on pokies go when Woolworths shareholders gather in Adelaide on November 22?
So many questions and we look forward to bringing you much of the action over what will be an exciting couple of months.