Venture capitalist Thomas Perkins said Friday he is not leaving the News Corp board because of the phone hacking scandal and is in full support of Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and the board.
Perkins, a director since 1996, told Reuters in an interview he told Murdoch earlier in the year that he did not want to stand for reelection at this year's board elections coming up on Oct 21.
I said I don't think the board should have two 80-year olds unless one of them owns the company, said Perkins, who turns 80 later this year. Murdoch turned 80 last December.
Perkins said he offered to stay on for one more year if they could not find a suitable replacement but helped to recruit fellow Silicon Valley venture capitalist Jim Breyer, 50, of Accel Partners who will now stand for election to the board.
Perkins' decision not to stand had initially appeared controversial in light of the ongoing phone hacking scandal at News Corp and his previous history. In 2006, he resigned from the board of Hewlett Packard in protest because of a scandal in which the company spied on directors and journalists to find information leaks.
Another long-time News Corp director, Kenneth Cowley, 76, is also quitting after 32 years.
The board shuffle comes after corporate governance experts slammed the media company board for a lack of independence and weak influence after a phone hacking scandal at its weekly UK tabloid paper News of the World. News Corp closed the paper in July, but the fallout reverberates through the company and still threatens to destabilize its operations.
British police arrested a 15th person Friday in connection with the scandal.
A fresh face on the board may help the company improve its corporate governance image as its ethics and business practices are being called in to question.
Breyer, a partner at Accel Partners, is best known as one of the early investors in Facebook, and also sits on the boards of Wal-Mart Stores and Dell Inc. Breyer joins the board a few months after News Corp rid itself of social networking site MySpace, whose collapse is widely believed to have been prompted by the success of Facebook.
If Breyer is elected as a director, the board would shrink by one seat to 15 directors. Perkins confirmed that the board is still seeking one more director to boost the ratio of independent to non-independent directors.
There are now eight independent directors and seven News Corp insiders on the board.
Earlier this year, the board was expected to expand to 17 when Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth was set to become the fourth Murdoch family member to join the board.
But following the furor surrounding the phone hacking scandal which erupted in July, Elisabeth Murdoch and the board decided not to pursue the nomination.
The shuffle comes as a regulatory filing showed that Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch's total compensation rose by 47 percent to $33.3 million in the 2011 fiscal year. Murdoch's pay was boosted by a $12.5 million bonus and $8.5 million in stock awards.
Deputy Chairman Chase Carey, who was the highest-paid News Corp executive last year, saw his pay rise 16 percent to $30.2 million.
Murdoch's son James, who has been under pressure since the UK phone scandal erupted at the unit he oversees, saw his total compensation rise by more than 73 percent to $17.9 million.
(Editing by Derek Caney, Robert MacMillan and Phil Berlowitz)