Warren Buffett Dares Rupert Murdoch to Whip It Out
His tax return, people. His tax return. Remember last week when the Journal told O^3 he should put up or shut up since he’s so gung ho about increasing taxes on the ultra-rich? Well, he sure does and he seemed delighted when someone asked him about it today:
Asked about the editorial on Tuesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Buffett said he was willing to release his tax returns, on one condition: “I think it might be a terrific idea if they would just ask their boss, Rupert Murdoch, and he and I will meet at Fortune, and we’ll both give you our tax returns and you can publish them,” Buffett said. “I’m ready tomorrow morning,” he added.
Your move, Rupes.
Let’s Meet the News Corp. Audit Committee
By now you’ve probably heard that Rupert and James Murdoch had a little Q&A with some Members of Parliament in London today. You may have also heard that things got a little interesting when a man opted to put a cream (origin unknown) pie in the elder Murdoch’s face only to have his wife, Wendi Deng, get a little medieval on the Three Stooges impersonator.
Before all the excitement, things were getting a little awkward, as Rupes came off as very unprepared and on at least one occasion, was slapping the table not unlike your own octogenarian grandfather wanting to know if someone could pass the goddamn mashed potatoes. At one point, the questioning turned to legal settlements and MP Therese Coffey asked the Murdochs if they knew “how much has been paid out in legal settlements.”
James Murdoch [said] he [did] not know total number but said its customary to try to reach out-of-court settlements in many cases. Rupert Murdoch points out News Corporation had a strong audit committee to review all these things.
Right! The audit committee, that’s who you want to talk to. Of course, that’s a pretty lame answer, as Dennis Howlett noted:
Who, exactly, are these capable audit committee members? Here’s the crew from the company’s most recent proxy:
• Sir Roderick I. Eddington, Chairman – currently the non-executive chairman for Australia and New Zealand of J.P Morgan. Also former CEO of British Airways. Director since 1999.
• Peter L. Barnes – Chairman of Ansell Limited. Director since 2004.
• Andrew S.B. Knight – Chairman of J. Rothschild Capital Management Limited. Was also the Chairman of News International (James Murdoch’s current position) from 1990 to 1995. Director since 1991.
• Thomas J. Perkins – Partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital company. Director at News Corp since 1996.
I’m sure all these dudes (News Corp has one woman on their board – Natalie Bancroft) are all quite capable but it doesn’t strike me a terribly robust audit committee. Having said that, it’s been reported that News Corp’s independent directors have retained Debevoise & Plimpton to represent them. The audit committee is comprised entirely of independent directors (calling Mr. Knight “independent” seems like a stretch but whatevs) and maybe they could rattle off the laundry list of legal settlements but at least it appears they’re sorta on top of things now.
Can the FTC Even Deliver on Newspaper Bailout Promises?
Editor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
For months there has been the underlying hum of a newspaper bailout in the air – not much surprise there given dropping subscriber numbers and dwindling ad revenues. But in lieu of an actual bailout (i.e. a check from the Treasury), how about some tax breaks and anti-trust waivers?
At a workshop on the the [sic] future of journalism yesterday, the head of the Federal Trade Commission said the agency is studying ways to help struggling media companies struggle a little less. What might this help look like? It could come in the form of new anti-trust laws, tax breaks, government subsides [sic] or even changes to copyright law.
Well if “journalism” involves rampant copy errors like that, we’re more screwed than it appears.
Tax breaks for mainstream media? Why? I’m a fringe journalist and I still have to pay my taxes, if I don’t bother to tailor my content to my audience to the point that it draws enough ad revenue to pay my bills, maybe I don’t deserve to eat that week.
It gets better.
Rupert Murdoch has long fought Internet news aggregation and would love to see a pay-per-view program for news that — holy shit! — might actually save news. Where do you get yours from? Would you pay for it?
In recent comments, he basically called every blogger who has ever clipped a news article a thief, including Arianna Huffington. You may have heard of her.
Fine, charge for it. I’d pay if it was worth paying for. Would you pay for the recent CNN article that said the Big 87654 ended with more employees than they started with? Me neither.
Point being, Murdoch would rather see news sites charging than peddling for a bailout. I don’t seem to recall major media outlets begging for any bailouts recently, which naturally inspires a healthy skepticism towards the FTC’s comments.
Has the FTC checked this proposed mainstream media bailout “tax break” with the Treasury? Because if I heard correctly, we have $30 billion to put towards Afghanistan now, not to mention the fact that the FDIC is broke and Citigroup is probably going to need a Dubai backstop. I’m not sure if Timmy would be okay with this, better ask him first.