News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch faced angry shareholders Friday who called for his ouster at the company’s annual meeting in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
The confrontation coincided with news of a payment of 3 million pounds (4.8 million dollars) to settle claims that the company’s now defunct News of the World tabloid had hacked the cell-phone messages of a murdered schoolgirl in 2002, hampering police investigations.
The deal included a 2-million-pound payout to the family of Milly Dowler and a 1-million-pound charity contribution in the schoolgirl’s name.
The settlement payment was the largest made by News Corp since it was engulfed in the phone hacking scandal, which prompted powerful investors Friday to call for Murdoch, 80, to step down from the helm of the company that he built.
Among those calling for his ouster at the shareholder meeting were representatives of the California Public Employees Retirement System, the largest pension fund in the United States.
Other large shareholders, including the Christian Brothers Investment Services, which manages about 4 billion dollars for Catholic organizations, also called for his resignation, and were backed by the influential shareholder watchdog the Institutional Shareholder Service.
“It is an investment risk to have a weak board with a conflicted chairman,” said Julie Tanner, assistant director of Christian Brothers.
“The company’s phone hacking scandal, which began its public denouement in July 2011, has laid bare a striking lack of stewardship and failure of independence by a board whose inability to set a strong tone at the top about unethical business practices has now resulted in enormous costs,” ISS said.
Mr. Murdoch rejected calls for him to step aside and tried to reassure investors that he was committed to correcting the faults unearthed in the scandal.
“I am personally determined to right whatever wrong was committed and to ensure it does not happen again anywhere in our company,” Mr. Murdoch said at the meeting that took place at News Corp’s Fox Studios lot in Los Angeles.
Results of the shareholder vote are not expected before next week, but analysts said that Murdoch was likely to retain his position, since the company controls 40 per cent of the voting stock and also has the support of News Corp’s second largest investor Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.