NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
A union challenge to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts' control over the voting shares of the company will be subject to a vote of shareholders under a decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a published report.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported over the weekend that the Communications Workers of America has won a position on the company's proxy statement on whether Roberts and his family should continue to have about one-third of the voting shares of the nation's largest cable company despite holding only about 1 percent of shares outstanding.
The widely-traded class A shares of Comcast, which the company has proposed using to buy Walt Disney Co., have only one-fifth of a vote for each share, while the class B shares controlled by the Roberts family, have five votes each. The union is proposing both kinds of shares get one vote each.
"This issue is especially important in light of Comcast's ongoing effort to take over the Walt Disney Co.," said a statement from CWA president Morton Bahr in the paper. "Roberts would continue to control one-third of the voting power of what would be one of the world's most powerful media conglomerates."
The Disney board turned down the Comcast proposal for an all-stock acquisition, though it said it was open to considering a bid at a different price.
Comcast had previously rejected the CWA's shareholder vote proposal, but the SEC said that the company's reason for excluding the CWA proposal from Comcast's proxy was invalid, according to the Inquirer.
A Comcast spokesman, Tim Fitzpatrick, told the paper that Comcast's current governance structure was approved by more than 99 percent of AT&T shareholders when they voted on it in 2002 after Comcast successfully bid to buy AT&T's cable division. Those AT&T shareholders received Comcast class A shares in their stake in AT&T's cable operations. He would not say whether the CWA shareholder proposal will make it onto the company's 2004 proxy.