Rupert Murdoch has gotten the attention of Dow Jones & Co. with his $5 billion bid for the Wall Street Journal owner. But if he wants to acquire the company he’s long had his eye on, he’ll have to win over Dow Jones’ controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family.
“Our understanding is that there are several members of the family who have not made a final decision,” Murdoch told The New York Times for a story published Friday. “I think the next step for us is to be patient and to be available at anytime should they respond to my suggestion for a meeting.”
Murdoch said the Bancrofts, who own 24.7 percent of Dow Jones’ stock but hold 64.2 percent of the voting rights, have not answered any of his invitations since his News Corp. offered to pay $60 a share for the company.
The Bancrofts have long protected the independence of the Journal and have been unwilling to sell in the past. But Murdoch might only have to persuade a handful of Bancrofts to tip the scales in his favor. The family said Wednesday it would vote shares representing 52 percent of the company’s voting power against the deal.
Journal employees who oppose selling to Murdoch have begun writing letters to Bancroft family members voicing their concerns. But in his interview with the Times, Murdoch insisted he won’t meddle in the paper’s journalism or slash jobs.
“We’re not coming in with a bunch of cost-cutters,” he said, but added, “I’m not saying it’s going to be a holiday camp for everybody.”
Murdoch has his opinions about the Journal. “I’m sometimes frustrated by the long stories,” he said, adding that he also would like to see more political coverage. But he said his reputation as an interloper owner was overstated.
He said he would leave Dow Jones Chief Executive Richard Zannino and the Journal’s newly appointed managing editor, Marcus Brauchli, in place and would propose setting up a separate board for the newspaper to ensure its editorial independence.
Investors seem confident that there will be a sale, with speculation surfacing that another newspaper publisher or an Internet company might start a bidding war. Dow Jones stock remained just below $56 Thursday, 54 percent higher than before Murdoch’s bid was announced Tuesday.
Murdoch said his $60-a-share offer was meant “to get the attention of the owners,” and though he may not see a return on his investment right away, being part of his larger global company would allow Dow Jones to invest for the longer term.
He said although recent changes like scaling back the Journal’s international editions were made for “efficiency,” his company would “be coming from a different point of view to develop a paper that provides management and journalists more resources and more investment.”