Rupert Murdoch faced another gruelling spell in the firing line last night, as he appeared before shareholders of News Corp for the first time since several of his media empire's senior executives were arrested in connection with the phone-hacking scandal.
The company's annual general meeting promised high theatre along with plenty of awkward moments for the 80-year-old tycoon and his sons, James and Lachlan. As board members, they faced the prospect of again having to defend their involvement in an affair that has rocked the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic.
Tom Watson, the Labour MP spearheading Parliament's investigation into phone hacking, was in Los Angeles for the occasion. He promised to reveal new details of covert and illegal surveillance techniques used by the organisation, which he said went "beyond mere phone hacking".
Several institutional investors were meanwhile preparing to oppose the appointment of the 15 company directors seeking re-election. A motion calling for the tycoon to be stripped of his chairmanship of News Corp, which he currently holds in conjunction with the chief executive role, was also due to be debated.
By holding the meeting in Los Angeles, some 2,400 miles west of their New York headquarters, the company ensured that the most critical proceedings would occur after early editions of British papers had gone to print.
Wireless internet is usually available throughout the Fox Studios lot. But attendees were told it would be unavailable yesterday. Reporters used to being able to drive on to the campus were banned from parking there. And the company said no board members would grant media interviews.
Mr Watson was able to attend after being appointed as a proxy by a trade-union organisation that owns some News Corp shares. He promised to new allegations about Mr Murdoch's UK newspapers, which would "leave the company liable to civil liability but also huge reputational harm".
They apparently concern three private investigators whose activities have not so far been investigated.Reuse content