This year's slew of scandals should produce an especially ugly show at Fox Studios, where News Corp.'s annual shareholder meeting will take place on Friday afternoon. As pretty much every paper points out in their preview coverage, News Corp.'s annual general meetings tend not to be gentle on their chief executive, but this year could be even worse for the mogul. The AFP says the meeting will be "stormy"; the CBC called it "rocky". The Los Angeles Times expects to see some "fireworks" from "angry investors," and Variety reports, "News Corp. braces for a shareholders brawl." Even The Wall Street Journal--Murdoch's prize financial paper that's been criticized for taking it easy on their boss--admits "News Corp. Braces for Flack." However, the most fist-pounding headline aware goes to The New York Times who declare bluntly, "Irate News Corp. Shareholders to Take Murdoch to the Woodshed."
So it's going to be bad. We'll check in later in the day to see what kind of unexpected shenanigans the shareholders come up with. But for now, a few specific happenings seem guaranteed.
MP Tom Watson will reveal News Corp.'s surveillance techniques "beyond phone hacking." The Member of Parliament who's had his thumb on Rupert's eye for months recently bought shares in News Corp. so that he could attend the meeting. Watson sits on the parliamentary committee that's been investigating News Corp.'s phone hacking practice, and he most certainly knows things that others don't. "We know they've used tracker devices, private investigators to follow people, as well as phone hacking," Watson told reporters on Thursday. "Tomorrow, I want to talk about a particular aspect of other technological surveillance, but I'll leave that for the shareholders."
Occupy Wall Street's LA outfit is sending some troops. The Occupy Los Angeles website is calling for a "field trip" to Fox Studios during the shareholders meeting. They've provided directions to the meeting site and also say they're running buses from City Hall. They haven't posted any specific demands or really any talking points, but that's not really the Occupy movement's jam.
All eyes will be on Rupert and James Murdoch. For months, scattered reports have suggested that Rupert Murdoch and his son James, News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer who handled the initial fallout of News of the World phone hacking scandal, have been brawling. The latest report came in earlier this week claimed that Rupert told James to come back to New York or he'd be sacked. However, The Financial Times spoke to one source that insists they'll present a united front on Friday. "There is no rift at the moment. There hasn't been a fight between the two for months," said the unnamed source. "Rupert is squarely in James's corner." Not even News Corp.'s supporters can avoid making a boxing reference.