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News Corp Rupert Murdoch the Daily Beast

Riddle of 'man in background' as Murdoch took the stage

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

October 23, 2011 | 3 min read

Of all the coverage of the News Corp shareholder meeting in Los Angeles, an article by Nicholas Wapshott on Tina Brown's Daily Beast website stands out as being the most acid .

Rupert Murdoch

Wapshott, a former Times Saturday editor, and Margaret Thatcher biographer, first pointed out that Murdoch’s son James and his brother Lachlan, sat in the front row of the theatre in an area cordoned off by velvet ropes and policed by guards. Neither James Murdoch, nor the deputy chairman Chase Carey said a word to shareholders.

"But it was the strange behaviour of Rupert Murdoch himself that attracted attention," wrote Wapshott.

"Before opening the meeting he recited from a script his regret that the scandal had broken without quite apologizing for what had been done in his name or accepting responsibility for the ethos in his company that led so many to believe he would approve of such activity.

"No sooner had he formally opened the meeting, however, than it became clear he was not chairing it unaided. To his left, in the gloaming, was a man staring straight at the crowd like a secret serviceman looking for assassins.

"Before long it was this shadowy figure who was not only telling shareholders their time was up but, in one extraordinary outburst, telling “Rupert,” as he called him, to stop talking.

"Whether it is because he has enjoyed total control over News Corp. for so long that he has forgotten, or whether he has simply lost the ability to chair a formal meeting, Murdoch made error after error in trying to keep the meeting from sliding into chaos.

"At times he added to it himself, announcing after a barely whispered prompt and long after debate had begun, the conditions on which he would allow the floor to ask questions."

Wapshott concluded, "An event that might have put at ease some of the nagging doubts about whether Murdoch had really learned the hard lessons of the last year and was up to reforming morality in the battered company has only delayed the reckoning."

The key question,said Wapshott, remained whether 12 months from now Rupert Murdoch would still be at the helm at 1211 Avenue of the Americas,

News Corp Rupert Murdoch the Daily Beast

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