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Saudi billionaire backs News Corp structure

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a major News Corp shareholder, rebuffs calls to change the scandal-hit company's dual-class structure or leadership

Reuters, Tuesday 26 Jul 2011
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Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a major News Corp shareholder, rebuffed calls to change the scandal-hit company's dual-class structure or leadership, in an interview in the Financial Times's Tuesday edition.

The FT said the Saudi billionaire owns the same class B voting shares as the Murdoch family, who use the structure to command almost 40 per cent of the voting rights with a 12 per cent share stake. Class A shares do not have voting rights.

"Investors went into News Corp knowing the class A and B share structure," Al-Waleed told the newspaper. "No one can cry wolf now."

He affirmed his support for Rupert and James Murdoch's testimony before the British parliament on July 19, saying that they responded to questions from the ministers with honesty and integrity, and echoed their condemnation of phone-hacking.

"Unfortunately the [phone hacking] incident gave weapons to competitors who created a hysteria," he said in the interview.

"What took place was wrong," he added, "but the media over leveraged this" and created an environment in which News Corp had to abandon its bid for full control of BSkyB, he said.

Al-Waleed also reiterated his support for Rupert and James Murdoch's handling of the phone-hacking crisis but said there was a need for stricter governance rules within the media empire to prevent such incidents from recurring.

"Things need to be tightened," he said. "We need stronger rules in place to ensure that no unethical incidents happen again in any News Corp entities."

He dismissed suggestions that News Corp shares might suffer from a "Murdoch discount" as a result of family control, attributing what he described as currently depressed values to generally lackluster results in the newspaper industry.

On July 20, Al-Waleed told Reuters that he believed News Corp would emerge from the current crisis and that he did not plan to sell any of his shares in the company. 

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