A Fox Corp. shareholder got a bit of a brushoff when he asked if or how the company was doing anything structurally to protect itself against legal liability around the 2020 election and if and how executive pay policies may have been tweaked to to reflect ongoing legal peril.
At the company’s annual meeting, John Chevedden noted Fox’ $787 million payout last spring to settle a lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems right before the trial started. Another company Smartmatic is suing for $2.7 billion. These are big chunks of cash. Chevedden, who pops up everywhere, is the leading proponent of shareholder proposals annually in the U.S.
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Chase Carey, who sits on the board’s compensation committee and present at the annual confab at the Zanuck Theatre on the Fox lot, didn’t exactly give an answer. He noted “refinements” to pay policies this year from last. Compensation is based on both qualitative and quantitative measures. The former is mathematical, the latter more subjective and squishier. Overall, he said the board’s criteria measures “all the appropriate things we want to measure” and does “capture issues like that.” He didn’t elaborate. Chevvenden asked Carey to reach out if he had any more details.
Notably at the meeting, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch spoke out against rising anti-Jewish sentiment in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel that has led to devastating violence in Gaza. “In addition to the war, we have, sadly, witnessed a surge of antisemitism both abroad and at home in our own communities. It is important that we all stand up, [that] we address all forms of antisemitism,” he said.
He praised the work of “courageous” Fox staffers “reporting from war zones around the world in the most challenging and harrowing circumstances possible.”
And he took time to honor his father, Rupert Murdoch, 92, who is exiting as chairman of both Fox and News Corp, moving into a position of Chairman Emeritus. I want to acknowledge and congratulate my father, who is also with us today, as we mark his transition to chairman Emeritis of Fox, the unique and strong company he has built over so many years.” There was applause from the followed by a montage of Rupe’s life and career.
“Dad, on behalf of the Fox board of directors, the leadership team and all the shareholders who have benefitted from you work, we thank you for your vision, your insatiable curiosity and your legacy,” he said. “We look forward to your continued counsel and contribution for years to come.” More applause.
Fox and News Corp. announced in September that the elder Murdoch would be stepping down as chair from the boards of both companies, which he built over half a century, at their annual meetings.
Lachlan, the oldest son, is now sole chair of News Corp. following its annual meeting earlier this week and remains executive chair and CEO of Fox Corporation. Rupert didn’t speak at the Fox meeting but he did weigh in at News Corp’s Wednesday, vowing to still play an active role at both, and praising Lachlan as ”a principled leader, and a believer in the social purpose of journalism.“
He was less complimentary of those he termed “the intolerant elite,” who “regard differing opinions as anathema.”
“Like my father, I believe that humanity has a ‘high destiny,’ and Lachlan certainly shares that belief,” he said then. “That sense of destiny is not just a blessing, but a responsibility.”
For Fox’ fiscal 2023, which ended in June, Rupert saw his compensation rise by 24% to $22.9 million. Lachlan’s package totaled $21.77 million, nearly flat from the year before.
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