News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch defended the company's governance, leadership, business strategy and ethics during its quarterly earnings call today, its first since the phone-hacking scandal at its News of the World tabloid ignited outrage in Britain.
A reporter asked Mr. Murdoch, for example, whether he acknowledged critics' claims that News Corp.'s board members aren't sufficiently independent of the company, and if so, whether he planned any changes. Last week News Corp. delayed its plan for Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert's daughter, to join the board, but many of the independent members have ties to the Murdoch family. His sons James and Lachlan are also on the board.
"No, I don't acknowledge that and no, I don't plan any changes," Mr. Murdoch replied.
Another reporter asked about Viet Dinh, the independent board member overseeing the company's investigation into its own behavior. Mr. Dinh is also godfather to one of Lachlan Murdoch's children.
"Mr. Dinh is a completely independent director," Mr. Murdoch answered. "I can just assure you we continually evaluate our corporate governance practices.
"It's a very strong board, very often critical and we have a lot of free-ranging discussions," he added.
When an analyst asked -- voicing the hope of many other analysts -- whether the current crisis might lead the company to exit some or all of its newspaper holdings, Mr. Murdoch said no.
He was "shocked and appalled" at the News of the World's conduct, Mr. Murdoch said, but everything else in the company's newspaper portfolio is fine.
Some investors have called for News Corp. to divide the CEO post from the chairman post, but Mr. Murdoch said that won't happen. "The board and I believe I should continue in my current role as chairman and CEO."
He runs the company as a team, he added, with President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey.
Asked whether scrutiny of James Murdoch's recent appearance in Parliament has affected the possibility that James will ascend to the CEO spot at some point, Mr. Murdoch said no.
"I hope that the job won't be open in the near future," Mr. Murdoch said, drawing laughter from other News Corp. executives on the call.
If Mr. Murdoch were suddenly struck by a bus sometime soon, Mr. Murdoch said, Mr. Carey would get the CEO spot.
"Chase and I have full confidence in James," he added.