Two California pension funds to vote against Murdoch
NEW YORK — Two huge California pension funds said Monday they would vote against the reelection of Rupert Murdoch to the board of his media conglomerate News Corp. this week.
The pension funds added their voices to a growing clamor among News Corp. shareholders for the ouster of Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan from the board after a phone hacking scandal in Britain.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), the nation’s biggest public pension fund, said on its website that it will vote against the reelection of the three Murdochs as well as two other board members at the annual general meeting scheduled Friday.
Calpers also said it supports separating the posts of chairman and chief executive; Murdoch currently holds both.
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) opposes the reelection of all the News Corp. board members, and supports separating the posts, a spokesman told AFP in an email.
Calpers owns approximately 1.45 million Class B shares with voting rights. CalSTRS has about 6.1 million non-voting Class A shares and 35,200 Class B shares.
The shareholder revolt gained steam after a July phone hacking scandal blew up in Britain, forcing News Corp. to close its British tabloid, 168-year-old News of the World.
But given that founder Murdoch, chief executive of the media empire, and his family control about 40 percent of the shares, and billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who supports them, owns an additional 7.0 percent, calls from disgruntled shareholders likely will be rejected.
The shareholders meeting at Fox Studios in Los Angeles promises to be stormy. The biggest US proxy advisory firm, ISS’s Proxy Advisory Services, recommended last week that shareholders vote against 13 of the board’s 15 members, including the Murdochs.
In addition, ISS said shareholders should take aim against Rupert Murdoch’s unusually high pay: an annual base salary of $8.1 million, plus a $12.5 million bonus in the 2011 fiscal year that ended in June.
Pension funds in Britain and Australia also have urged a shakeup at the company after the phone hacking scandal tarnished News Corp.’s reputation and eroded share value.