Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has sent in News Corporation legal heavy hitters to plead the case to Australian investors for his 'poison pill' defence against hostile takeover.

The envoys, NewsCorp director and Georgetown University professor of law Viet Dihn, with group general counsel Lon Jacobs, have met with the Australian Council of Super Investors and shareholder advisory service, Corporate Governance International.

The poison pill stratagem was invoked in November 2004 as a defence against the perceived predations of US cable pioneer John Malone and his Liberty Media empire, which had built up a near 18% stake in NewsCorp.

When the defence strategy was extended for a further two years [WAMN: 12-Aug-05] dissident shareholders revolted, claiming the company had promised to consult them before any such move.

A lawsuit was subsequently instigated by angry investors in Delaware, USA where NewsCorp is now incorporated. It will be dismissed if shareholders approve the poison pill extension at the annual meeting in October.

Liberty's presence in the wings has been privately welcomed by some fund managers because it has brought NewsCorp to the negotiating table for the first time to discuss corporate governance issues.

Says a conciliatory Greg Baxter, NewsCorp's Australian spokesman: "We want this to be a dialogue [with shareholders]," and an opportunity to find out "whether there are any residual issues".

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff