The News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) board will look a little different after the company’s Oct. 21 annual shareholders meeting but, so far, not when it comes to anyone named Murdoch. Two longtime directors are leaving the board, which has been criticized for being too stacked with directors who have ties to the company. Tom Perkins, the Silicon Valley VC who has been a vocal defender of Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch during the fallout from the hacking scandal, and Kenneth Cowley, a former top News Corp. exec. Joining the board as VC in residence: Accel Partners’ Jim Breyer.
In addition to his SV investment record, which includes Facebook, Breyer is the lead independent director on the Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) board and also serves on the Dell board. He may not be the last addition.
Set aside for the moment why someone would join the News Corp. board in the midst of controversy and criticism and revel in the quote that accompanied the announcement: “I consider it a privilege to be nominated and I am excited about the prospect of joining News Corp.’s distinguished Board at this exciting time in the Company’s history.”
But, as previously noted, Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth will not be joining the board, which was part of the plan following the acquisition of her production company Shine, The acquisition is offered by critics as an example of nepotism at the company and got a fresh burst of attention this summer when revelations about hacking drew wide attention to News Corp’s management and board.
Her brothers James, deputy COO of News Corp., and Lachlan, who left the company, are on the board. James Murdoch has spent the summer under scrutiny by Parliament (and Scotland Yard) for his role in the hacking scandal that claimed News of the World and scuttled the company’s controversial bid to buy BSkyB (NYSE: BSY). He remains chairman of that board. While his positions appear safe at present — which didn’t look like the case at the height of hacking mania — James Murdoch’s July testimony to a committee of Parliament has been called into question and could cause ripple effects.
Critics have called for changes to the board, questioning the actual independence of most of the independent directors.