More Signs of Murdoch/Dow Jones Deal: Managers Promised Payoff

By: Dow Jones & Co., which has received an offer to be acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has expanded a severance program for senior executives in the event the company is sold.

In a regulatory filing Thursday, the financial news publisher said its board decided Monday to increase the number of senior management employees who are eligible for the severance program by about 135. Dow Jones publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Dow Jones Newswires and other publications.

Dow Jones also said the severance benefits would be enhanced by establishing a minimum severance pay period of 12 weeks. The company also adjusted its bonus program to account for measurement of bonuses should a sale occur this year.

Dow Jones said the changes are designed to allow current and potential employees to focus on business objectives and help alleviate their concerns about the impact of a sale on their positions or compensation.

Murdoch has offered to acquire Dow Jones for $60 per share, well above the mid-$30s price the stock had been trading at before his offer, valuing the company at $5 billion. Many analysts believe the huge premium of about 65 percent may make the price difficult to match by other potential suitors.

The company's controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, initially rebuffed the offer but then agreed to meet with Murdoch and several of his top lieutenants Monday to discuss their concerns about preserving the independence and integrity of The Wall Street Journal.

Both sides described the meeting as "constructive" but have declined to comment further, and there is no word yet on any subsequent meeting. Meanwhile, a union representing about a quarter of Dow Jones employees, which strongly opposes Murdoch's bid, has been trying to drum up interest in other potential bidders.

Billionaire investor Ron Burkle has agreed to work with the union to explore other possible alternatives, and Philadelphia businessman Brian Tierney, who led a consortium that bought The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News last year, told the Inquirer that he would be interested in joining a possible joint bid to buy Dow Jones.


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