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News Corp. shareholder requests reform at Wall Street Journal

October 16, 2012|By Meg James
  • Chase Carey, News Corp. president and chief operating officer, was stopped by security on his way into the media company's shareholders meeting Tuesday.
Chase Carey, News Corp. president and chief operating officer, was stopped… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )

Activist shareholders gave News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch a list of reforms Tuesday at the media company's shareholders meeting.

Several lobbied, unsuccessfully, for Murdoch to step down as chairman of the media conglomerate. Activists also tried -- but failed -- to do away with the company's two classes of stock, which give the Murdoch family nearly 40% voting control of company affairs.

Aaron Epstein of North Hollywood attended the meeting with a different reform in mind.

"I am a longtime subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, and I am here to ask for you to have a left-of-center columnist on the editorial page," the 82-year-old investor said during the meeting at the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles.

Epstein said a moderate voice used to pop up occasionally on the famously conservative page. But lately, he said, moderates have been difficult to find.

Murdoch, in response, told Epstein that the company's policy was not to interfere with editorial operations. Not only that, Murdoch said, but editorial page editors were holdovers from the pre-News Corp. ownership era.

"There's no change," Murdoch said.

After the meeting, Epstein said that he appreciated Murdoch's response. "I didn't expect him to say, "Oh yes," we are going to put a liberal on there," Epstein told a reporter. 

But Epstein, who said he has attended annual meetings of other major corporations, was most struck by the controls and speaking time limits placed on shareholders as well as the sizable security detail.

"This seems to be an over-control type of situation," Epstein said.

Just ask Chase Carey, News Corp.'s president and chief operating officer.

A half hour before the 10 a.m. meeting began, Carey was stopped briefly by security on his way into the Zanuck Theatre, where the meeting was held. One dark-suited official waved a detection wand around Carey,  before giving him the go-ahead to enter the area.

Carey just shrugged, saying: "Good security."

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