Saudi prince sounds News Corp warning

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the second biggest shareholder in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has revealed his frustration with the fallout from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Rupert Murdoch’s big backer sounds News Corp warning” was written by Christian Sylt and Caroline Reid, for The Guardian on Tuesday 8th May 2012 18.16 UTC

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the second biggest shareholder in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has revealed his frustration with the fallout from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and admitted that it is harming the reputation of the company overall, not just its publishing interests.

Alwaleed is a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, and, according to Forbes magazine, is the 29th wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune of bn (£11bn). He owns large stakes in Citigroup, Apple, Canary Wharf and London’s Savoy hotel as well as 7% of the voting shares in News Corp, which on Wednesday announces its results for the three months to the end of March. Analysts expect profits to rise around 19% from the same quarter last year.

Alwaleed said that although News Corp was “very diversified,” with interests covering books, magazines, newspapers, television and film, the phone-hacking scandal was having a company-wide effect. “I really hope that this is behind us because really it is not helping the name of the company,” he said. “We hope that this page is folded and put behind us because really it is not something to be proud of.”

News Corp investors have voiced concerns about the phone-hacking scandal since it erupted last year and, at the company’s AGM in October, several shareholders, including powerful pension fund CalPERS, called for the appointment of an independent chairman. Murdoch currently holds the position of chairman alongside that of chief executive. Alwaleed is one of Murdoch’s staunchest supporters and had never before spoken publicly about the wider impact of the scandal.

His most public previous involvement was to suggest the resignation of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News Corp’s UK newspaper division, News International. Brooks was editor of the News of the World when its journalists hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and in July last year Alwaleed told the BBC’s Newsnight: “If the indications are for her [Brooks's] involvement in this matter is explicit, for sure she has to go, you bet she has to go … Ethics to me is very important.” Brooks resigned the following day.

News Corp holds a significant stake in Alwaleed’s Saudi Arabian film, TV and music business Rotana Media Group and he said: “We have a strategic alliance with Rupert Murdoch for sure and I have been with him for the last 15 or 20 years. My backing of Rupert Murdoch is definitely unwavering.”

Alwaleed said that although the scandal had had an impact on News Corp’s reputation, its financial results had not been damaged. “The share price is really separating from what is happening in the UK,” he said. “We see the price is hovering around and the results are very good.”

News Corp shrugged off the hacking scandal in its second-quarter results as net income increased 65%, despite it having to pay m during the period as a result of the ongoing investigations that led to the closure of the News of the World. Net income rose to .06bn for the quarter, compared with 2m a year before, driven by growth in its cable networks and movie studio divisions.

Alwaleed expects this trend to continue despite the ongoing scandal and he said: “I believe that once this page is flipped over, News Corp can withstand the heat of what is happening there.”

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