Deja vu for News Corp. director Tom Perkins

By Laurie Bennett

July 12, 2011 at 5:10pm

Tom Perkins has seen it before.

Perkins quit the Hewlett-Packard board five years ago because of a phone-hacking scandal.

Now he’s a director of News Corp., the parent company of News of the World, which is being bombarded with allegations of hacking the phones of the royal household, government officials and crime victims.

Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins

Reuters describes him as perhaps the company’s best hope.

The phone hacking scandal, suspected of involving thousands of victims, has led to shutdown of News of the World and delay of News Corp.’s attempts to take over British Sky Broadcasting.

The company clearly needs an credible investigation of malfeasance at NOTW and, perhaps, other News Corp. properties.

Yet Perkins is one of the few independent voices at the top of an mammoth enterprise that has been run as Rupert Murdoch’s family business.

Other members of the board with ties to the company:

· Murdoch’s two sons, James and Lachlan, are directors.

· John Thornton and David DeVoe have several business onnections to Murdoch, including BSkyB and DIRECTV.

· Andrew S.B. Knight is former chairman of News International, parent to NOTW.

· Arthur Siskind is former senior EVP and general counsel to Fox Broadcasting, another News Corp. holding. He has acted as a senior adviser to Murdoch since 2005.

· Kenneth Cowley headed Murdoch’s Australian enterprises until 1997.

· Natalie Bancroft is an heir to Dow Jones, which News Corp. acquired in 2007.

· Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, a recent addition to the board, is CEO of News Corp.’s education division.

Perkins, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, is not without his entanglements. Fellow board member Viet Dinh acted as his attorney during the Hewlett-Packard scandal.

In that case, Perkins’s home phone records were fraudulently obtained by a private investigator hired by HP. Perkins informed federal officials, and company chairman Patricia Dunn ultimately resigned.

The map above excludes three directors who are executive officers of the company - Klein, News Corp. President and COO Chase Carey and CFO David DeVoe.

Klein, oddly enough, has been named to oversee an investigation of the scandals. While he has experience in handling crises, his paycheck is issued by the company he is supposed to scrutinize.

For a great discussion of this problem and the overall weakness of the News Corp. board, see Nell Minow’s column on BNET.

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