MURDOCH WON: But Bancrofts Warn that 'Canvass' Still Underway

By: E&P Staff Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has apparently won its battle for The Wall Street Journal and the rest of Dow Jones, according to reports coming out on Tuesday. Just enough members of the Bancroft family may have joined in accepting the bid -- though it's possible some may yet switch sides again.

In fact, in late afternoon, according to The New York Times, "A family spokesman issued a statement cautioning that the canvass of family members and trusts was still under way, adding, 'Any suggestion that the process has been completed and/or that a particular level of support has been established is at this point premature.'"

The Times, just before 1 p.m., had published this confirmation: "Rupert Murdoch finally won his long-coveted prize today, tentatively gaining enough support from the deeply divided Bancroft family to buy Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for $5 billion.

"Family members and trusts representing about 32 percent of the shareholder vote indicated they would support Mr. Murdoch?s offer, though several details were still being worked out, according to people briefed on the matter."

Seth Sutel at The Associated Press raises one red flag: "Murdoch?s News Corp. must still decide whether it is comfortable with that level of support in order to proceed. With some public shareholders likely to abstain, News Corp. wants a solid majority of votes committed to the deal."

Official word on the purchase is not expected until after the market closes at 4 p.m., according to inside sources.

Just after noon, following a report to this effect by Reuters, the Wall Street Journal had related: "Bancroft family members owning 32% of Dow Jones & Co.'s overall votes have agreed to support News Corp.'s $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, according to people familiar with the matter.

"That level of support is likely more than enough to guarantee News Corp. enough votes to clinch the deal. Nevertheless News Corp. was hoping to collect even more votes from Bancroft family members, as a way of solidifying its majority and demonstrating to the broader public that it has a mandate from the family to take control of the company. The Bancrofts have 64.2% of the overall votes in Dow Jones.

"News Corp. has scheduled a board meeting for 4 p.m. this afternoon, where it will decide its next step. Dow Jones's board is due to meet this evening.

"Shares of Dow Jones were up sharply in trading Tuesday as investors reacted to newspaper reports that a deal for News Corp. to buy Dow Jones was imminent."

Earlier today, The New York Times called the deal "tantalizingly" close and a CNBC commentator declared it a done deal.

In late morning, Reuters reported: "Dow Jones & Co. Inc.'s controlling Bancroft family 'has accepted' News Corp.'s $5 billion offer to buy the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, an executive of a Dow Jones unit said on Tuesday. 'The Bancroft family has accepted,' John Prestbo, editor and executive director of Dow Jones Indexes, told reporters on Tuesday in Chicago. Dow Jones 'will be part of News Corp,' he said.

"Prestbo told Reuters the information came from an internal company memo."

However, early this afternoon, Dow Jones released a statement declaring, "please disregard his [Prestbo's] comments which were misunderstood. There is no internal memo."

The mood was different for much of Monday, as our earlier report noted, "Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is highly unlikely to keep pursuing Dow Jones & Co. if the support for the deal among the controlling Bancroft family shareholders is as soft as reported Monday.

"A News Corp. spokesman told The Wall Street Journal Monday morning that if it's true that family members supporting the deal at this point hold only about 28% of the company's overall voting power, News Corp. likely would not take the deal to a full shareholder vote. The comment was reported on the Journal's Web site by Martin Peers."


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