Speaking at News Corp AGM, Murdoch hails Times, Australian and Wall Street Journal as successes but says company has ‘hands full’ keeping print viable
Rupert Murdoch say News Corp is not looking to expand its newspaper empire, conceding digital advertising “has been tremendously damaging to print” and some of his papers were struggling.
Murdoch, speaking at News Corp’s annual general meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday, praised chief executive Robert Thomson for challenging digital giants Google and Facebook for allowing free access to the company’s content.
“So far I think we have done pretty well in replacing lost advertising revenue in the major papers, but it continues to be a big problem,” Murdoch told shareholders.
The meeting took less than 30 minutes, a far cry from past AGMs. Murdoch faced just three questions.
In response to a question about the company potentially purchasing more newspapers, the 86-year-old News Corp executive chairman said: “Not really. No. Our hands are pretty full making our existing papers viable.
“I think the big three successes we have are the three big national papers: the Wall Street Journal, the Times in London and the Australian.
“The other papers, a lot of them are still very viable, but they are struggling.”
News Corp publishes Australian newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Courier Mail; as well as the New York Post and, in the UK, the Sun.
Murdoch, his sons Lachlan and James, and other News Corp directors seeking re-election received “a majority” of electoral votes from shareholders according to the preliminary report, Murdoch said.
The final results will be released in a US securities and exchange commission filing.
Meanwhile a shareholder proposal calling for Twenty-First Century Fox Inc – also controlled by the Murdoch family – to scrap its dual-class share structure was rejected on Wednesday.
Fifty-seven per cent of votes cast sided with the position of Fox’s board, which argued that the current share structure provided flexibility and enhanced the company’s ability to focus on long-term results, a Fox regulatory filing said.
The majority of Fox shares traded publicly are class A shares, which have no voting rights. The Murdoch family owns about 39% of the class B voting shares.
Critics argue that the set-up concentrates too much power with the Murdoch family. Forty-three per cent of votes cast were in favour of eliminating the two classes of shares and giving all shares a vote, and more than half of shareholders outside of the Murdochs’ control voted in favour.
At the 26-minute annual meeting on Fox’s movie and television studio lot in Los Angeles, shareholders also re-elected Murdoch and his two sons to the company’s board, suggesting continued support for the family even as its Fox News division is recovering from a series of costly sexual harassment settlements.
Australian Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report