Almost Half BSkyB Shareholders Oppose Murdoch Plan

07 November 2005

Rupert Murdoch on Friday faced his second shareholder revolt within eleven days - this time at the annual meeting of BSkyB, the UK satellite TV monopoly in which News Corporation holds a controlling stake of 37.14%.

Unlike the dissent at last month's NewsCorp annual meeting where sixteen per cent of stockholders voted against the group's 'poison pill' strategy [WAMN: 25-Oct-05], the latest rebellion was a very close call indeed.

Faced with NewsCorp's plan to increase its stake in BSkyB to over 39%, almost half of the latter's shareholders - forty-six per cent - voted against the proposal.

However, following the meeting the broadcaster's deputy chairman Lord Jacob Rothschild on Sunday offered investors an olive branch, assuring them the board is "not immutably wedded to buybacks". It did not, His Lordship promised, propose to renew the authority to buy back shares at next year's shareholder meeting.

However, observers recall a similar promise made to NewsCorp shareholders concerning the short term nature of the 'poison pill' strategy - a promised negated by its subsequent extension.

In a letter sent to shareholders over the weekend, BskyB's independent directors expressed their disappointment at the controversy generated by the buyback proposal, saying they had consulted widely and secured a legal agreement to limit any increase in News Corp's voting rights.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff