Deadline Arrives for Dow Jones Sale Decision
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Today is the deadline for the Bancroft family to reveal whether it will accept Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, the company that owns the Wall Street Journal. The family has been deeply split.
Today, a spokesman for Murdoch's company, News Corp, increased the pressure, saying it was highly unlikely that a sale would happen with the current level of family support for the deal.
NPR's David Folkenflik has been following the story and joins me from New York. And David, what can you tell us about what's happened today?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, today was a, sort of, the deadline for a - it's self-set, I might add, by the Bancroft family to take the vote and purport their lead trustee, lawyer by the name of Michael Elefante, as to how they were going to vote. After all, the Bancroft family controls about 64 percent of the voting stock of Dow Jones Company. And so far, it's been very tough, as you say, for them to come to a decision. It has not been announced which way they'll come out.
What we do know is earlier in the day, a spokesman for News Corp, Mr. Murdoch's company, has told us and other news organizations that if they don't get more support than has been reported - that is about 28 percent of the votes from the family were said to support the Murdoch bid. If they don't get a few percentage points several more than that so that they can get a convincing victory when its put to the full shareholders, Mr. Murdoch would simply walk away from his $5 billion offer and go away.
BLOCK: And if that happens, what could happen in the next coming days?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, if he walks away from the bid, what happens the next coming days will be, sort of, an orgy of recrimination as many of the non-Bancroft shareholders will be very angry that they didn't get this bid accepted. After all, Mr. Murdoch would have increased the value of their shares by about 60-some percent from what it was worth at the end of April when he first made his offer. On the other hand, he could well get that extra percentage points, in which case, he could see over the next days the offer being taken to Dow Jones or he could well come back with more money.
He has sworn that he won't do that. His spokesman affirmed that today, and at the same time, it remains a possibility until the game is entirely over.
BLOCK: We mentioned that the Bancroft family is deeply split on this. Why don't you walk us through some of the factions within that family and who's opposed, who's in favor and why?
FOLKENFLIK: Well it's almost like examining the last royal family of Russia. You've got the 36, three dozen, call it, adult members of the Bancroft family help control various stakes and shares. This offer has exposed rifts between branches of the Bancroft family, between generations of the Bancroft family, even within nuclear units of the Bancroft family. In a way, that's been astonishing to see.
Leslie Hill is one of the members of the board of directors. She's a key and influential member of the Bancroft family and a former American Airline pilot. Her brother wrote a long missive to all the other members of the Bancroft family this weekend against her stand. She had opposed the Murdoch bid, and he had said, you know what? We haven't been responsible enough stewards. We've left Dow Jones exposed to an offer like this and, therefore, we should bow out.
You know, the key issue for some is that Rupert Murdoch has a very aggressive style in the Anglo-Australian tradition, where proprietors are expected to be able to affect news coverage to bend a bit toward their political or commercial interest. And Wall Street Journal has a very different history of editorial independence, one that many members of the Bancroft family argues should be sustained.
BLOCK: And briefly, David, where does all these leave the Wall Street Journal if this deal does or does not go through?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, right now, the Journal is, you know, reporters, journalists -they're very jittery. You know, there's a whole cadre of executives that will make a lot of money off this deal, but may well be relieved of their positions of authority under News Corp. There are a lot of journalists who fear this will strip them of some of their very hard-won credibility over decades of work.
BLOCK: Okay. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks a lot.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.