Still Hunting: Dow Jones Board to Meet With Burkle

By: E&P Staff

A false report on Friday had the Dow Jones deal with Rupert Murdoch done. Now it seems it may not even be that close.

Board members of Dow Jones plan to meet on Monday with Ronald W. Burkle, the California billionaire, “as they continue to hunt for alternatives to a takeover by Rupert Murdoch?s News Corporation, people close to the board said yesterday,” The New York Times reports on Monday.

“The effort to find another bidder has been pushed by some members of the Bancroft family, owners of a controlling interest in Dow Jones, especially Leslie Hill, who is also a Dow Jones board member, said these people, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations.

“They said that Ms. Hill and some family members who have spoken out dislike News Corporation, which they see as a purveyor of sensationalism and partisanship. They have also been frustrated that no other potential buyer has materialized, these people said.

“Mr. Burkle is set to meet with a special committee of the Dow Jones board that has been handling talks with News Corporation. But the people close to the board described the session as probably not significant, because they believe Mr. Burkle does not have an offer to put on the table.

“The main union of Dow Jones employees, the Independent Association of Publishers? Employees, and its financial advisers, Ownership Associates, have been searching for another bidder, and revealed more than a month ago that they were working with Mr. Burkle?s private equity firm, the Yucaipa Companies. But they have also said it was clear that Mr. Burkle was not interested in making a bid on his own ? particularly not at the $60-a-share price Mr. Murdoch has offered.”

The Times, in a separate story on Monday, also reports that if the Murdoch bid falls through, “declining advertising will mean significant cuts in The Journal?s newsroom staff, according to senior editors and a person close to Dow Jones management, who said they were told individually by company executives.

“Some of these people say that if Mr. Murdoch?s offer had not put other considerations on hold, the news staff would have been trimmed already.

“If Dow Jones remains independent, a reduction in the size of the news staff will probably begin within a few months, and will most likely take the form of buyouts rather than layoffs, these people said. Some jobs might be eliminated even if the deal goes through, they said, though Mr. Murdoch has signaled that he would increase the staff over all.”

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