Echoing a sentiment expressed by numerous US and UK-based pension funds, Australian pension funds have called for Rupert Murdoch’s removal as chairman of News Corp, as well as the dismissal of his sons James and Lachlan Murdoch from the board.
Ahead of the company’s annual meeting on October 16 in Los Angeles, a campaign to bring in a “genuinely independent chair” and outside talent has been growing as more shareholders voice their dissatisfaction with the family’s overwhelming control over the business.
"The proposal is to separate the roles of chairman and CEO so that there is a clear split between the responsibilities at the top of the company," said Hans-Christophe Hirt, director of global engagement at British fund manager Hermes, to ABC Radio.
"The chairman being responsible for the board and the CEO being responsible for running the company, and we think that is quite important to regain the trust of investors going forward."
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This is the second attempted coup initiated by shareholders: in 2011, a majority of them voted against the re-election of James and Lachlan amid the continuing drama associated with the News of the World phone hacking scandal. However, the Murdoch’s 40 per cent controlling vote made these votes redundant and thus allowed the brothers to retain their positions.
Still, this year, shareholders are undeterred and will push forward with their campaign, garnering support from shareholders on three continents to replace the Murdoch empire.
''While we acknowledge the recent board changes made by the company, News Corp has still not sufficiently addressed the significant shareholder concerns about its board structure and corporate culture highlighted at last year's annual meeting,” said Hirt to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"It is important to continue changing the culture at News Corp and we believe for that to happen it is very important that they split and that there is a change at the top of the company.”