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You are here :home / business / 2002 / 10 / 14 / Losing my Rupert virginity
Losing my Rupert virginity

Tom Gara
News Corp proxyholder

Tom Gara is a Crikey subscriber who attended his first News Corp AGM on October 10 and was briefed to enter the fray if Rupert shot Crikey down. This is how he saw events unfold.

October 14, 2002

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It was like being the high school slut except this time the experience was much longer lasting - two virginities lost in one most interesting day. My first encounters with both Rupert and the lumbering Crikey giant himself were definitely an experience not to be forgotten.

The same can probably be said for the few hundred News Corp share holders lucky enough to experience an uncharacteristically interesting AGM this year, mostly thanks to the mischievous yet thoroughly professional running stoush between Rupert and Crikey that was the ongoing point of interest for the meeting.

Kicking off the morning meeting the Mayne Man in the lobby of the Hyatt for some pre-AGM strategies and prep, the vibe at the place was strangely non-existent - in fact, if you didn't know that the AGM of Australia's biggest company was being held in the downstairs "ballroom" (commonly known as a basement) you would have guessed business as usual in sleepy ol' Adelaide.

Terry Mcrann walking round looking like the lonely guy who is first to show up at the party was probably the only sign that something significant was brewing downstairs.

Having been prepped on the 20+ questions Crikey wanted asked in the AGM and gone through the suicide bomber friendly, Adelaide style, highly informal registration process, I was into the meeting and chose to sit smack in the middle of the front row of seats. This is where probably the strangest realisation of the day kicked in for me - how can security surrounding 3 Murdochs be so unbelievably lax? With little more than confidence & low-level business attire, a dodgy looking unshaven student (I was referred to as the "bearded" one by Crikey's subscriber update on the AGM but I'd say its more like two weeks without a shave) complete with a bright yellow Quiksilver shoulder bag and a scuffed up pair of Merrel clogs, managed to be seated less than a 5 metres from Rupert, and even closer to young Lachlan and James.

Not a single metal scanner, no bag check, not a search in sight, and here I was sitting so close to one of the worlds most powerful men that the multitude of ways a Jihad-minded man in my position could have nailed 3 Murdochs in one sitting was one of the main thoughts I would refer back to when business at the AGM got boring. But luckily (for me and the Murdochs), this was rarely necessary - thanks mainly to Crikey and with backup from the ASA bloke, the AGM maintained a fairly consistent feeling of debate and discussion.

I could cover all the resolutions voted on and the business side of the meeting, but Crikey himself went through this in much greater depth than I could hope to offer. Instead, here is a few of my own reflections on being a 21 y.o AGM/Rupert/Crikey virgin exposed to such a corker of a meeting.

Crikey himself absolutely stole the show and even from a non-reader's perspective it was the Crikey questioning and in particular the board tilt that was the clear highlight of the AGM. If my memory serves me correctly even Rupert himself only received a brief lukewarm show of applause once following his 10 minute plus opening address, whereas Crikey received two decent sized ovations, one predictably following the excellent board nomination speech, and a spontaneous round of applause following his speech in opposition to options for non-executive directors.

I agree with Crikey that Rupert's age is starting to become more apparent. Despite being solidly professional, witty and quite sharp facing the questions, he botched some figures horribly quite a few times much to the embarrassment of the fellow board members who had to correct and help poor dotty old Rupe through the tough times when his memory (and basic mathematics) seemed to be failing him.

There was a quite nice friendly bit of jousting going on between Crikey and Rupert, and Rupert seemed to be in a good spirit about it. When Crikey admitted that he had no chance of flying back to Sydney on the News Corp jet Rupert interjected in a flash with "you're right" and this brought up a hearty bit of laughter from the masses. Crikey got his own laugh out of Rupert, when responding to Rupert query of the extent of Crikey's News Corp holdings. "A modest amount", he said, "certainly nothing like your own interests" which brought another decent laugh to the crowd. Score : One all.

That Lachlan fellow certainly is a sharp looking young man. I'm not into "the love that dare not speak its name", but Lachlan sure is a good looking young chap and looked more like a model than an executive director, lounging back on the end of the board table in a sharp single breasted pinstripe suit, spiked up hair and funky minimalist Patrick Bateman glasses. That gold-digging O'Hare woman certainly has found herself some decent breeding stock. Pity about his crap American accent, he sounds like a complete wussy. As opposed to the director sitting directly on Ruperts right, general counsel Arthur Siskind, who had an awesome hard-ass Brooklyn Italian accent, like you'd expect to hear coming from an angry cabby in a bad American movie, or the tough Italian cop on his last day till retirement.

The post-AGM festivities were a little underwhelming. I made sure to slug down plenty of the free beer, although it was disappointing to see that local boy Rupert didn't provide Coopers Pale Ale (a crime that any South Aussie recognises), and instead doled out some watery draught crap instead. Even more shocking was that some communist pinko has managed to infiltrate one of the world's last great patriarchal organisations and corrupt their catering policy, with not a spot of red meat or man-worthy food in sight.

Chicken skewers, pita rolls, vegetable pizzas and cucumber/tuna sandwiches were the order of the day. The greatest injustice of all was to find a quite decent looking party pie, dunk it in tomato sauce, bite into it and discover some bloody vego mixture of corn, cheese and asparagus. How very un-Australian Rupert. That, the lack of Coopers beer and your sons crap yankee accent should have you barred from South Australia for a long time.

All in all, it was a great experience, and Crikey, you most certainly stole the show. Sorry for disappointing you and only asking one mediocre question (a WorldCom inquiry that got shot down in about ten seconds), but by the time I got up you had already won the crowd over with about 4 smoking gun questions in a row and I would have looked like a mediocre bearded imitation if I tried a similar stunt. Walking around the pinko nibbles area drinking my injustice beer, I heard the words "Stephen Mayne", "that guy who ran for the board", and "that Crikey bloke" spurting from the lips of shareholders all over the place. A much more consistent theme of conversation post-AGM than Rupert's lacklustre year or Lachlan's swanky haircut.

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