Murdoch reaches out to advisers as Ten's investor showdown looms

LACHLAN MURDOCH has been visiting proxy advisers in a last-minute effort to shore up shareholder support for the Ten Network board before its annual meeting early next month.

LACHLAN MURDOCH has been visiting proxy advisers in a last-minute effort to shore up shareholder support for the Ten Network board before its annual meeting early next month.

Proxy advisers raised concerns on Tuesday about the troubled broadcaster's $8.37 million executive pay bill, revealed last week amid turmoil at the network.

The problems include a slumping share price, the departure of the programming chief David Mott and mass staff redundancies.

Mr Murdoch, who is Ten's chairman and a big shareholder, was in Melbourne yesterday to visit the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises the super fund sector, and the boutique governance advisor Ownership Matters.

He has also met the Australian Shareholders' Association and the Sydney-based proxy adviser ISS.

An industry source said visits by chairmen to proxy advisers had increased in recent years, with some even walking in without an appointment.

"We did have a chat with him in advance of publishing our report to clients," the ISS head of Australian research, Daniel Smith, said. "It's been challenging times for them. Lachlan really hammered in on their focus on ratings and revenue - they've got to bump up both of them."

While ISS has recommended its clients vote for Ten's remuneration report, Mr Smith said the company's large executive pay bill was "the big story".

"Some of our shareholders may be uneasy with that, but that's a problem across the media space," he said.

"At the same time, executives didn't get bonuses, which gives some credence to the idea the board has been paying attention to the fact performance has been pretty bad."

Ten's annual meeting on December 6 will give shareholders the opportunity to grill the board on months of bloodletting at the network. More than 100 journalists have been made redundant.

Up for re-election are Brian Long, a former chairman, and Siobhan McKenna, who runs Mr Murdoch's media investment company Illyria.

Shareholders will also cast a non-binding vote on Ten's remuneration report, which reveals that after being appointed on January 1, the chief executive, James Warburton, received pay worth $1.75 million. In its report to clients, ISS estimates the maximum payable to Mr Warburton under his contract is close to $4.5 million, more than twice the median pay of comparable listed companies.

Discontent among investors over pay levels in the media sector is running high. At its annual meeting last month, Fairfax Media received a "first strike" after the mining magnate Gina Rinehart voted her 15 per cent stake against the board's remuneration report.

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