Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has asked the chairman of Fairfax Media to resign if he cannot reverse falling circulation and revenue at the company's newspapers.
In an open letter to Roger Corbett, Ms Rinehart asked him to step down by November if a number of performance milestones had not been met.
Ms Rinehart is the largest single Fairfax investor with nearly 19 per cent of the company's shares.
In her letter to Mr Corbett, Ms Rinehart said the performance of Fairfax Media over the past five years had been distressing for shareholders.
She called for the Fairfax share price to rise from current levels of 55 cents to 87 cents before November's annual general meeting.
"Shareholders should at the very least be advised what the loss target is, and be assured that should you not meet that target, there would be light at the end of tunnel," the letter said.
"And, if the five-year decline in paid circulation and in revenue of Fairfax mastheads do not reverse prior to the 2012 AGM, we ask that you tender your resignation at that meeting." Ms Rinehart has mounted a high-profile campaign to win seats on the Fairfax board after a large acquisition of shares earlier this month left her with 18.7 per cent of the company.
This week, Mr Corbett told the world's richest woman that Fairfax was unable to extend an invitation for her to join its board.
Ms Rinehart's refusal to sign the company's charter of independence raised concerns she would interfere with the editorial independence of Fairfax's flagship newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
"Where we have differed most profoundly is not over the charter of editorial independence, contrary to much Fairfax reporting, but how to save a business that is reportedly in danger of dying," Ms Rinehart said in the letter.
"What is at stake is the survival of Fairfax Media, so it is not time for smoke screens to divert attention." Push for control In response, Fairfax said in a statement that the dispute was about editorial control despite Ms Rinehart's assertions to the contrary.
"It is also about her obtaining control of the company and not paying a premium," the statement said.
"If Ms Rinehart wants control of Fairfax Media she must make a bid.
"Ms Rinehart's letter today has once and for all unmasked her motives for her continual attacks on the company and its board.
"Our readers are telling us that if Ms Rinehart succeeds in this personal crusade, they will abandon us." Fairfax has announced and changes in key roles at its flagship newspapers as it restructures to survive in a digital world.
In Friday's statement, it says all media stocks have been hurting in recent times.
"It is worth noting that in the same period since Ms Rinehart has joined the (Network) Ten board, its stock has traded 63.4 per cent down," it said.
"In the same period, Fairfax Media's stock price is down 60.6 per cent."