Rupert Murdoch’s L.A. dinner featured steak -- but not hacking
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It’s a summer tradition at News Corp. Top Los Angeles-based entertainment executives, along with their spouses, mingle with members of the company’s board of directors for an elegant dinner at Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s Benedict Canyon home.
The affair -- held Monday night at Murdoch’s mansion, once owned by MCA founder Jules Stein -- always occurs the evening before the summer board meeting in Los Angeles.
And this year, there were as many hot seats as hot dishes.
News Corp. has seen its market value tumble during the last month in the wake of the British phone hacking scandal. The crisis has put a dark cloud over the company and its management. News Corp. last month shuttered its 168-year-old News of the World tabloid and withdrew its planned $12-billion purchase of the remaining shares of British Sky Broadcasting, the region’s top pay-television provider. Two senior executives, sullied by the scandal, stepped down. More than 10 people in Britain have been arrested.
Probes of News Corp. activities have been launched by governments in both Britain and the United States. James Murdoch, often mentioned as the heir apparent to his father to eventually run the company, has been tarnished by the mess. James Murdoch, who has been responsible for News Corp.'s European operations since 2007, approved large settlements to several victims of the phone hacking -- a decision he has said he now regrets because he had insufficient information.
Meanwhile, some investors have demanded action by News Corp.'s board. They have complained that several of the independent directors are not as independent from Rupert Murdoch as they should be.
For example, a key independent director is Viet Dinh, a Georgetown University law professor who served in former President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, is the godfather of a son of Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s oldest son. Dinh oversees the company’s internal review of the phone hacking scandal, which was expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The menu Monday night included steak, a vegetarian dish and perhaps a little avoidance.
Rupert Murdoch thanked everyone for attending, according to people present.
The 80-year-old patriarch, who hosted the dinner along with wife Wendi Deng, then expressed his gratitude to the spouses for putting up with the long hours and hard work that their mates must put in to be part of the News Corp. family.
But Murdoch only briefly mentioned his British troubles. He said the problems were isolated to one part of the company -- and had no effect on the whole.
James Murdoch, who serves on the board and is deputy chief operating officer, was in attendance, as were more than a dozen executives who run key News Corp. operating units, including News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey and Chief Financial Officer David DeVoe.
Other News Corp. executives who attended included: Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice; 20th Century Fox Television Studio Co-Chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden: Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly; 20th Century Fox Film Production President Emma Watts; Fox Sports Chairman David Hill; Fox Sports Vice Chairman Ed Goren; Fox Sports co-Presidents Eric Shanks and Randy Freer; Twentieth Television President Greg Meidel; and the company’s chief human resources officer, Beryl Cook. Communications executives Teri Everett and Julie Henderson were on hand.
It was unclear whether Wendi Deng served pie for dessert.
-- Joe Flint and Meg James