Saudi billionaire backs News Corp structure - report

LONDON Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:16am BST

Labour party MP Tom Watson questions News Corp executives Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch at a parliamentary hearing on phone hacking in London on July 19, 2011. REUTERS/Parbul TV via Reuters TV

Labour party MP Tom Watson questions News Corp executives Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch at a parliamentary hearing on phone hacking in London on July 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Parbul TV via Reuters TV

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LONDON (Reuters) - News Corp's major shareholder Prince Alwaleed bin Tala has rebuffed calls to change the company's dual-class structure or leadership, the Financial Times reported in its Tuesday edition.

"Investors went into News Corp knowing the class A and B share structure," Alwaleed was quoted as saying in an interview with the newspaper. "No one can cry wolf now."

The Saudi billionaire owns the same class B voting shares as the Murdoch family, who use the structure to command almost 40 percent of the voting rights with a 12 percent share stake. Class A shares do not have voting rights, the FT reported.

News Corp is embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal that has led to closure of the 168-year-old News of the World.

Alwaleed reiterated his support for the way Rupert and James Murdoch handled the phone-hacking crisis. Both Murdochs testified before parliament's media committee on July 19.

"Unfortunately the incident gave weapons to competitors who created a hysteria," he said.

"What took place was wrong, but the media over leveraged this" and created an environment in which News Corp had to abandon its bid for full control of BSkyB, he said.

"We need stronger rules in place to ensure that no unethical incidents happen again in any News Corp entities," Alwaleed was quoted as saying.

According to the report, he dismissed suggestions that News Corp shares might suffer from a "Murdoch discount" as a result of family control, attributing what he described as currently depressed values to generally lacklustre results in the newspaper industry.

On July 20, Alwaleed told Reuters that he did not plan to sell any of his shares in News Corp.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh)

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