Major shareholder urges News Corp to sell newspapers

News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch has been urged by its third-biggest shareholder to sell off its newspaper businesses.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Kevin Holt, a senior fund manager at the investment management company Invesco, said he wants the company to sell “all the newspaper businesses,” adding: ‘It’s a digital world now and the competitive advantage that newspapers had has been competed away.”

The company – whose papers include The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK and the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the US – has been widely criticised for its handling of the phone-hacking scandal which led to the eventual closure of the News of the World in July.

‘Was I disappointed with the UK situation? Yes, for sure,” Holt said. “But we don’t own the stock because of the UK newspaper print business. We own it despite the UK newspapers.”

Invesco owns around 14m of the key B News Corp shares that carry voting rights, according to the Sunday Telegraph

News Corp managed to defeat attempts to remove several key members of its board at its AGM in Los Angeles on Friday, including Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, but Invesco declined to comment when asked how it had voted on the board’s re-election.

The sell-off call from Invesco comes days after News Corp’s UK newspaper business News International announced plans to cut up to 150 editorial staff The Times and The Sunday Times, with the company citing continuing economic uncertainly and a huge surge in the cost of newsprint.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the majority of News Corp’s shareholders are attracted to the company’s cable TV business in the US, rather than its newspaper interests, and consider it to be a ‘key driver of profits’under the company’s chief operating officer Chase Carey.

Holt to the paper that if Chase was to leave News Corp he would ‘have to seriously reconsider my position in the company”.

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