News Corp. pays $3M to settle Dowler case

Oct. 21, 2011 at 11:18 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- News Corp. Friday confirmed it agreed to pay more than $3 million to the family of a slain British teenager whose phone was hacked.

Meanwhile, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and sons James and Lachlan, along with the rest of the company's board, were re-elected Friday, surviving some calls for their ouster, the company announced after a News Corp. shareholders meeting in Los Angeles.

The $3.15 million settlement, revealed at the meeting, is to be paid to the family of Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked, touching off a scandal that brought down News Corp.'s News of the World tabloid and has resulted in multiple arrests and a police investigation.

British newspaper The Guardian reported Murdoch agreed to donate $1.575 million personally to six charities.

"Nothing that has been agreed will ever bring back Milly," the family said. "The only way that a fitting tribute could be agreed was to ensure that a very substantial donation to charity was made in Milly's memory."

Murdoch told shareholders in Los Angeles Friday the company is being subjected to "unfair attack" in the phone-hacking scandal.

News Corp. declined to provide the vote tally on retaining the board and said it would do so next week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The $33 billion-a-year media company has faced growing pressure to make major changes to its management structure, with some investors seeking to reduce the influence of Murdoch and his family since the hacking scandal erupted during the summer.

The Times said Murdoch's critics realized it would be difficult to oust him and others on the board. Murdoch and his family control about 40 percent of the voting shares, while a close ally holds 7 percent.

As a result, almost every other shareholder would have had to vote against Murdoch to remove him.

About 100 shareholders attended the meeting Friday on News Corp.-owned 20th Century Fox's movie studio in West Los Angeles.

Several shareholders insisted more independent members should join the board.

"It's time to get on the governance high road," said Stephen Mayne, an Australian shareholder who attended Friday's meeting.

Mayne, who previously worked at a Murdoch paper, said, "You should get with the program and embrace a board with more independent board members."

Murdoch told critics: "I'm very proud of the culture of this company. Have there been mistakes made? Yes, and we are putting them right. We will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of this and make things right."

Murdoch, 80, said News Corp. is the "stuff of legend" and said he is "personally determined" to put the scandal to rest, The Guardian reported.

News Corp. had faced a possible revolt of as much as 20 percent of non-family shareholders, the newspaper said.

"There needs to be decisive action in terms of holding people to account," Edward Mason, secretary of the ethical investment advisory group of the Church of England, told The Guardian before the meeting.

Murdoch said at the meeting the church's investment track record is "not that great." The church owns shares worth $6 million, the newspaper said.

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