New York: The family behind Dow Jones & Co. and its star asset, The Wall Street Journal, has switched tactics over a $5 billion (Rs20,500 crore) bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., saying it is now willing to discuss terms.
The controlling Bancroft family, which opposed the bid when it was made public 1 May 1, said late Thursday it was now prepared to discuss the offer and to seek guarantees for editorial independence, while remaining open to other offers.
The Journal, founded in 1889, is the most prominent daily business publication in the US with a daily circulation of 1.7 million newspapers and 788,000 Internet subscribers.
The company also owns Dow Jones Newswires.
After a special meeting of the Dow Jones board of directors held at the request of the Bancrofts, the family said:
“After a detailed review of the business of Dow Jones and the evolving competitive environment in which it operates, the Family has reached consensus that the mission of Dow Jones may be better accomplished in combination or collaboration with another organization, which may include News Corp.,” the statement said.
“Accordingly, the Family has advised the Company’s Board that it intends to meet with News Corporation to determine whether, in the context of the current or any modified News Corp. proposal, it will be possible to ensure the level of commitment to editorial independence, integrity and journalistic freedom that is the hallmark of Dow Jones,” it said.
“The Family also indicated its receptivity to other options that might achieve the same overarching objective,” it said.
The statement said, however, that there could be “no assurance” that talks with News Corp. or any other bidder would result in a deal.
News Corp. welcomed the family’s overture.
“We’re grateful to the Bancroft family for agreeing to our suggestion of a meeting and we look forward to it,” a News Corp. spokesman was quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal.
The Bancroft statement came two weeks after Murdoch reached out to the family in a letter published in the Journal, in which he sought to ease concerns about the venerable newspaper’s journalistic integrity in the chance of his bid succeeding.
In his letter, published 14 May in the Journal, Murdoch said he would “establish an independent, autonomous editorial board exactly along the lines of what was established at the Times of London”, which he owns.
This board would ensure that the Journal’s two top editors “would not be appointed or dismissed without the approval of the majority of the directors of the board; and ensure that any dispute between management and editors is properly arbitrated by the board,” he said.
Murdoch added that he would include a Bancroft family member on the board to “help alleviate any concerns about maintaining journalistic integrity and ensure good communication between the family and News Corp. going forward.”
Murdoch—whose sprawling media empire includes the Fox News Channel, MySpace, 20th Century Fox, the New York Post and the Times of London—said his News Corp. would be “an ideal partner for Dow Jones”.
The Australian-born media baron, who offered to meet with family members to discuss his bid, said his group “would be dedicated to building upon the more than 100-year heritage of your great company”.
The Dow Jones board of directors had said on 2 May that it would take no action on Murdoch’s surprise offer.
Michael Elefante, a board member who represents the Bancrofts—who own the shares that make up 52% of the company’s outstanding voting power—told the board then that they opposed the bid.
Dow Jones shares were up 0.87% at $53.31 at the closing bell on Thursday on Wall Street.
But in after-hours trading, shares soared 12.16% to $59.79 dollars, following the family’s late-night announcement.