News Corp. Shareholders Vote Big Against Murdoch Sons

Excluding family members, a majority of shareholders opposed the re-election of James and Lachlan Murdoch

Shareholders re-elected all three Murdochs on the board at last Friday's annual meeting, but News Corp.'s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday reveals widespread discontent with the Murdochs' leadership, and particularly with James and Lachlan Murdoch, the sons of Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch.

While Rupert remained popular enough — garnering 84 percent of the vote — his sons were not so lucky. A whopping 35 percent of shareholders opposed James' re-election, while 34 percent opposed Lachlan's return.

Those "no" votes are substantial because the Murdoch family holds 40 percent of the voting shares; this made their re-election a foregone conclusion headed into the event.

Also read: Rupert Murdoch, Sons, Re-Elected to News Corp.'s Board

The meeting, held on the Fox lot in Los Angeles, was never about whether the Murdochs would be ousted from the board. It was a test for how aggravated shareholders were after a summer of scandal.

Though protesters outside the meeting were holding signs and chanting, the questioning inside became the real story. Shareholders from across the globe pressed the Murdochs on their handling of the phone hacking scandal at its now-shuttered U.K. tabloid, the News of the World.

Headed into the meeting, various shareholder advisory groups recommended that News Corp. try to displace multiple boardmembers for a lack of independence and poor leadership.

The SEC filing would indicate that many shareholders took that advice to heart, as Lachlan and James were just two of five boardmembers to receive more than 200 million "no" votes. At least 30 percent of votes were cast against Natalie Bancroft, Andrew S.B. Knight and Arthur M. Siskind as well.

Also read: Will Another Murdoch Ever Run News Corp.?

Still, the story is the votes against Lachlan and James, both of whom have been the presumed heir to the throne at one point or another.

It used to be Lachlan, but he then left the company back in 2005. Over the past few years it had appeared James was getting in line, but then the phone hacking scandal happened under his watch.

James is the Chairman and CEO of News Corp. Europe and Asia, a job that includes oversight of all the British papers.

While this does not mean James' ascension to the top post is impossible, it does suggest there would be a great deal of resistance.