Murdoch wins “poison pill” vote to safeguard News Corp control

Rupert Murdoch has won the crucial battle to retain an anti-take-over rule – a so-called " poison pill" — which will, for some time at least, help him keep control of his media empire.

The anti-takeover amendment was originally passed two years ago to thwart a feared threat from one of News Corp's largest investors, John Malone of the Liberty Media Corp, who owns about 19 per cent of the company's shares.

If the amendment had been revoked, it would have increased the chances that Malone could some day seize control of News Corp, something that Murdoch (who owns about 30 per cent of the shares) strongly opposes. He eventually hopes to pass control of the company to his children, and suggested that Malone's attempt to take control of the company was akin to a takeover "through the back door".

But the vote was marginally thin. Just over 57 per cent of the votes cast gave the board the right to retain the plan for three more years. Just under 43 per cent voted against. One reason for the narrow vote is that some shareholders feel the adoption of the "poison pill" violated the pledge that Murdoch gave that he would consult shareholders first before enacting it. Had the vote gone against him, there was a likelihood the dispute would have ended up in the courts.

A substantial increase in the value of News Corp shares in the past year – up by 40 per cent — helped Murdoch's case. Nevertheless, at the company's annual general meeting in New York, Murdoch was attacked and had to defend his running of the company. He was criticised by the Parents' Television Council for some of the programmes that run on Fox TV and the F/X cable network as unsuitable for children. A spokesman for the council described some of the programmes as "smutty, vulgar and violent". All, he suggested, in the pursuit of profit. Addressing Murdoch directly, he said: "I believe you are a good man with solid values. You should be ashamed, but it's clear you aren't."

Also at the meeting, Cliff Kinkaid, editor of the conservative group Accuracy in Media, said he was disturbed that Murdoch's usually conservative politics were "drifting leftward" – a suspicion provoked by Murdoch's apparent support recently of Hillary Clinton in her possible pursuit of the American presidency.

Murdoch responded: "I am the same person I was last year," and insisted the company's political views remained "independent". Murdoch said News Corp had given as much money to the American Democratic Party as the Republican Party.

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