Director says Murdoch has full support of board

AP News
Posted: Jul 18, 2011 11:49 PM
Director says Murdoch has full support of board

News Corp. board member Thomas Perkins said Monday that embattled Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch has the full support of the company's board of directors, and is not considering elevating Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey to replace him amid a phone-hacking scandal in Britain.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Perkins denied a report that said that independent directors on Monday considered the company's succession plan, including naming Carey as CEO.

Murdoch is set to testify before Parliament in London on Tuesday. Bloomberg News, citing unnamed sources, said a decision on a replacement at the top of News Corp. depended in part on Murdoch's performance before lawmakers.

Perkins, 79, has been an independent News Corp. director since 1996 and is cofounder of Silicon Valley venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He vehemently denied the report and said there was no directors' meeting on Monday.

"I can assure you, there has been no discussion at the board level in connection with this current scandal of making any changes. The board supports top management totally," he said. "The board has been misled, as has top management been misled, by very bad people at a very low level in the organization."

Still, 80-year-old Murdoch's capacity to cope with the crisis has been tested, and speculation that he would speed his retirement over the scandal has quickened.

Last week, Murdoch at first refused to appear before a parliamentary committee before changing his mind hours later. He also told The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp., that he was "getting annoyed" at the stream of negative headlines and was "tired."

Perkins said a succession plan has long been in place given Murdoch's age, but it had not been brought up in light of recent revelations that journalists at News Corp.-owned News of the World hacked phones and may have paid British police for scoops.

Murdoch's 38-year-old son James Murdoch has long been considered the heir-apparent to his father's media empire. But he is also set to testify before lawmakers and has said he approved payments to hacking victims when he was chief executive of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations.

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of Murdoch's U.K. newspaper arm, is also set to testify.

"I have a lot of faith in Rupert Murdoch. He's a great guy, he's a friend of mine. He's a genius. And I know he's devastated by this. Just devastated. And I worry about him, you know, physically, being about the same age," Perkins said.

News Corp. also Monday named commercial lawyer Anthony Grabiner head of its own panel looking into allegations of wrongdoing, called the Management and Standards Committee.

Although the committee includes executives who worked for the U.K. unit overseeing the scandal-tainted tabloid, Perkins insisted that he would "personally make damn sure" that the internal probe would be independent.

The committee is to report its findings to Joel Klein, the former U.S. assistant attorney general and now head of News Corp.'s education division, and he will report to independent director Viet Dinh, a Georgetown University law professor.

A News Corp. spokesman said Klein was unavailable to speak. A message left for Dinh's university office was not returned.