Rupert Murdoch faced Wall Street and the press for the first time since the phone hacking scandal plunged his News Corp. into its deepest-ever crisis. Murdoch used the occasion to express contrition about the scandal, but he also doubled down, insisting that he is staying on as CEO, that he is not selling his newspapers and that the worst of the scandal is behind him.
Murdoch appeared on News Corp.'s quarterly earnings call for the first time in a year, amidst shareholder skittishness and the potential dismantling of his family dynasty.
Though the scandal has died down a bit in recent weeks, it is by no means over. Just Wednesday, Scotland Yard announced it had arrested another former editor at the News of the World, the paper where the hacking crisis began.
Murdoch was forced to fly to London and testify before Parliament for the first time ever as a result of the scandal. (That's where he was infamously attacked with a shaving cream pie.)
Murdoch and his deputies, COO Chase Carey and CFO David DeVoe, spent much of the roughly hour-long call discussing some of the more granular details of News Corp.'s holdings. Most of the financial analysts on the call did not directly mention the hacking scandal, or ask any questions about whether Murdoch still plans to name his son James as his successor. Murdoch said that he has "complete confidence" in James, but stressed the closeness of his and Carey's relationship. He batted away questions of succession by saying he hopes the top News Corp. job "won't be open" in the near future.
Murdoch also once again said he was "shocked" by the criminality at the News of the World, and was determined to get to the bottom of the scandal.
"Were there a dozen guilty people or two dozen?" he asked rhetorically.
For a complete recap of the call, check below.
08/10/2011 5:32 PM EDT
David Folkenflik tries asking a question about governance, but Rupert cuts him off. And ends all questions.
08/10/2011 5:31 PM EDT
Murdoch also denies any problems with the News Corp. board, which many have said is too cozy. "It's an excellent board," he says.
08/10/2011 5:30 PM EDT
First question: succession. Will James be allowed to succeed you in the near future?
"I hope that the job won't be open in the near future!" Murdoch continues:
"Chase and I have full confidence in James. That's all I need to say about it. Succession is a matter for the board."
08/10/2011 5:24 PM EDT
COMING UP NEXT: THE PRESS
Expect few questions about Harper Collins and/or Sky Italia.
08/10/2011 5:23 PM EDT
Murdoch on News of the World: "Were there a dozen guilty people or two dozen? We are cooperating totally 100% with the police in their investigations."
08/10/2011 5:19 PM EDT
Finally, an investor addresses the hacking scandal. "In light of what's happened," he asks, is Murdoch more open to selling his newspapers? He says that, since everything is fine at his papers except for the "one tiny corner" that was the News of the World, he's keeping the papers.
08/10/2011 5:13 PM EDT
Rupert Murdoch praises the "biggest and most efficient" printing plants that he has in Britain. (So he knows about the printing plants, but not about the top editors' activities in the UK, we guess.)
08/10/2011 5:11 PM EDT
Rupert Murdoch takes the opportunity to praise Fox Business, whose ratings and profits he says are both up.
08/10/2011 5:05 PM EDT
|@ davidfolkenflik : Analysts on News Corp call doing what analysts do: fixate on ad rates, buy backs, profits etc. No focus so far on leadership, governance.|
08/10/2011 5:03 PM EDT
Question For Rupert!
The question is about buying back stock (which News Corp. just did to the tune of $5 billion.) Why does Rupert want to do it now, when he originally didn't?
He starts about relative values, saying that he didn't buy back the stock in 2008 because he was saving up to buy BSkyB. "Now that's changed," he says.
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