UPDATE: Will Burkle or Buffett Ride in to 'Rescue' Dow Jones?

By: E&P Staff Billionaire investor Ron Burkle is working with a union representing workers at Dow Jones & Co. to explore alternatives to Rupert Murdoch?s $5 billion bid for the company, which publishes The Wall Street Journal.

The Independent Association of Publishers? Employees said in a statement Tuesday that it had reached out to Burkle, as well as the billionaire investor Warren Buffett and others, in an attempt to find other potential buyers for Dow Jones. The union strongly opposes Murdoch?s bid, saying he might slant the Journal?s coverage to suit his business interests.

Murdoch met with the controlling Bancroft family on Monday.

In Omaha, Buffett?s assistant Debbie Bosanek confirmed that a letter from the union had been received Tuesday but would make no further comment.

The Wall Street Journal editoral page weighed in today, introducing its remarks, "The Bancrofts have every right as owners to sell or not based on their own dictates, and what we say won't matter in any event." It said no company was "immune" to pressures in the Internet age.

Then it added, "Everyone knows that the influence of Times Publisher and CEO Arthur Sulzberger Jr. extends to selecting not merely the editorial page editor but columnists, political endorsements and, as far as we can tell, even news coverage priorities. We don't see how this differs from most of what Mr. Murdoch is accused of doing with his newspapers. The same lack of independence also applies to most non-family media companies such as Gannett, a newspaper owner whose make-no-waves corporate ethic turns nearly all of its editorial pages into mush."

The Washington Post's Frank Ahrens has a full report today, posted at www.washingtonpost.com. Here is how it opens.


The union that represents Wall Street Journal employees is working urgently to undercut Rupert Murdoch's bid for the paper by trying to drum up interest from other potential buyers. So far, the union's most hopeful prospect is a Southern California billionaire who is a two-time loser in bidding for newspaper companies over the past two years.

Steven Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, said his union has written letters to supermarket magnate and billionaire Ronald W. Burkle, Berkshire Hathaway chief executive Warren E. Buffett and several other rich people, hoping to entice them to bid on the Journal and its parent, Dow Jones.

It's a strategy that could be described as ABBR (Any Billionaire But Rupert).

"I'm looking for really rich people who have a good conscience," Yount said in an interview yesterday. "You look for someone who has one billion, two billion, three billion, four billion and might want to put that into a deal."

The union has written a letter to its targeted group of billionaires. Yount would not say who is on the union's list other than Burkle and Buffett.

Burkle immediately expressed interest and signed up his private-equity firm, Yucaipa, to advise the union on seeking rival suitors to Murdoch, the union said yesterday. A Yucaipa spokesman declined to comment.

Burkle bid on Tribune Co. earlier this year, losing to Chicago billionaire Samuel Zell, and on Knight Ridder last year, losing to McClatchy.

Buffett's office confirmed receipt of a letter from the Dow Jones union yesterday but declined to comment. Buffett has not responded to the letter, said Christopher Mackin, president of Ownership Associates, a Boston firm hired by the union to help find potential buyers for Dow Jones.


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