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Investors urged to drop Murdochs

RUPERT Murdoch's two sons, James and Lachlan, should be voted off the News Corp board along with four others, according to the superannuation industry's advisory body dismayed at the phone hacking scandal and dominance of the mogul's family to the detriment of other shareholders.

RUPERT Murdoch's two sons, James and Lachlan, should be voted off the News Corp board along with four others, according to the superannuation industry's advisory body dismayed at the phone hacking scandal and dominance of the mogul's family to the detriment of other shareholders.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, a organisation of 42 super funds managing $250 billion in assets, yesterday asked its members with News Corp shares to recommend opposing the re-election of the Murdoch brothers at next month's annual meeting.

It wants the pair to go, along with three directors who have served for two decades each and Natalie Bancroft, the opera singer member of the family that sold Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal to News Corp.

The call comes after a British advisory firm, PIRC, told pension funds there to oppose James Murdoch's re-election and suitability to succeed his father.

ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne said investors around the world had previously called for an independent director to be chairman, rather than Rupert Murdoch continue as both chairman and chief executive, contrary to Australian Stock Exchange guidelines.

They want family and long-serving directors replaced with a majority of "credible, skilled" independents, and the AGM was an opportunity to "convey their clear view" for reform. "Investors need to send a message," she said.

The council concedes it will likely amount to a message only, as it knows that the Murdoch family's control of 40 per cent of voting shares while owning only 12 per cent of the total shareholding makes the call unlikely to succeed in any casualties among the six nominees it opposes.

The phone hacking scandal in Britain and the purchase of a television production company, Shine, from Mr Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth, were both contributing factors to their decision.

The move was not a comment on individual directors, but on News Corp corporate governance as a whole.

The responsibility for "setting the ethical tone" rested with the board, she said.

"When we do have such a prominent shareholding, we rely much more on the independent directors," she said.

The council wanted News Corp to have a majority of independent directors, rather than its assessment of just five from 15 after the AGM.


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