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TheStreet Open House

Murdoch Bows To Investor Pressure: Resigns From Sotheby's Board

Stock quotes in this article: BID, NWS





Teamsters Call for Independent Board Nominating Process to Address Governance Concerns and Restore Confidence

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters welcomes the long-awaited resignation of James Murdoch from the Sotheby's [NYSE:  BID] board of directors. The Teamsters Affiliates Pension Plan, a shareholder of Sotheby's, was first to call for this board change in a letter to Sotheby's Chairman Michael Sovern on Sept. 14, 2011, citing concerns about his credibility, availability and performance in the wake of the News Corp. [ NASDAQ: NWS] phone hacking scandal. 

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100127/IBTLOGO)

The board's inaction ensnared Sotheby's into the seemingly endless cycle of news coverage regarding the investigations of James Murdoch and News Corp. since July 2011.

"During this period of inaction, Sotheby's shareholders have suffered through poor earnings performance; an unresponsive, indifferent board; and the consequences of management's disastrous lockout of professional art handlers in New York that has led to public confrontations and negative press worldwide," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. 

Four of the last five directors to be nominated to the board were handpicked by CEO William Ruprecht and senior management.  Each of these directors serve on important committees that should have the highest standards of independence—audit, compensation, and nominating committees.

It is difficult for shareholders to feel confident in a company when even the insiders have lost faith.  Ruprecht has sold off nearly 75 percent of his direct shares in the company since 2008, according to SEC filings. His current .22 percent stake is the lowest it has been since 2005 when he started receiving stock grants as part of his pay. And Kevin Delaney, the company's chief accounting officer has liquidated all of his holdings in the company this month.

"We call for an independent nominating process for board directors that engages shareholders directly," Hoffa said. "Sotheby's needs to get back to business and restore the confidence of its shareholders, employees and clients."

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