Tom Watson buys News Corp shares and will attend the AGM
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has done so much to bring the News of the World phone hacking case into the light and led the charge against Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has taken it a step further.
He has bought shares in in the media giant and plans to head to Los Angeles in an effort to speak at what promises to be a very closely watched AGM on Friday.
Watson, who recently became Deputy Chair of the Labour Party, will try and speak at the AGM and address the Murdochs who will know his face well from the select committe hearings in the summer where James Murdoch and his father were grilled by MPs including Watson.
Watson announced he had bought the shares in at the start of a hearing of Parliament’s Culture Committee today. The panel had been taking testimony from lawyers involved in hacking cases.
“I want to make sure the shareholders are fully informed about the things their company is doing in the UK. For an organization that believes in freedom of speech, it would be pretty extraordinary if they tried to stop me being heard,” Watson told Bloomberg.
Watson, who is in the process of writing a book on the phone hacking scandal, and will join a growing number of disgruntled News Corp shareholders who want to send a message to Murdoch by voting against several long-standing board members including his sons James and Lachlan.
According to Reuters holders of News Corp B stock including normally compliant supporters of Murdoch and his family, are closely examining recommendations by proxy advisory groups ISS and Glass Lewis to vote out as many as 13 of the media conglomerate’s current 15 directors.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time we vote with Glass Lewis on these kind of matters,” said Donald Yacktman, president and co-chief investment officer of Yacktman Asset Management Co in Austin, Texas referring to the proxy advisory firm told Reuters.
Glass Lewis specifically recommended their fund clients withhold their votes for six directors including James and Lachlan Murdoch along with other News Corp insiders David Devoe, chief financial officer, and Arthur Siskind, a senior adviser to Murdoch.
However, as the Wall Street Journal reports while “the protest vote against some members of News Corp’s board at Friday’s annual meeting could be sizable—but it is unlikely to precipitate any changes” –the Murdoch family hold 40% of News Corp voting shares.
It says analysts and investors say they are more focused on shareholder-friendly actions being taken, like a share buyback that is under way.