Comcast AGM: Everybody hates Brian
Comcast, the largest U.S. cable TV operator, might have had a strong first quarter, started paying a dividend, and even be able to claim to be one of the best performing stocks in 2008 in its sector – but CEO Brian Roberts still couldn’t catch a break from shareholders at Wednesday’s annual general meeting.
Worker unions pointed out Roberts gets paid 964 times the average non-supervisory Comcast worker, while a shareholder advisory group demanded (as usual) that the company adopts a one-share one-vote structure and drops the 33-percent voting rights Roberts currently holds under the dual shares structure.
But worst of all for Roberts was the presence of Evelyn Davis, 78, the self proclaimed Queen of the corporate jungle, who dominated proceedings as usual by haranguing management over various obvious and sometimes obscure details about the business.
The colorful and acerbic Davis recently castigated Ford Motors for selling Jaguar and Land Rover to an Indian company Tata that she said sells cars to “low outcasts”.
On Wednesday she berated Roberts and management for their annual legal fees estimated at around $100 million.
“Lawyers are like taxi drivers they run up the meter instead of taking you to your destination,” Davis opined.
Ironically, the aggressive pensioner’s solution for reducing these lawyer bills? Try and settle things amicably she said.
And what about all those shareholder proposals to cut Roberts’ pay, and to reduce his controlling stake etc?
Plus ca change, as they say.
The board got re-elected, adopted all company-sponsored proposals, and defeated all shareholder proposals.