Murdoch Will Keep WSJ Independent If Takeover Bid Succeeds
Rupert Murdoch would take steps to maintain the Wall Street Journal's editorial independence and invest in journalism if Dow Jones approves News Corp.'s $5 billion bid to buy the company, according reports of his plans published on Thursday.
In an interview published in the New York Times, Murdoch suggested his reputation as an interloper owner was overstated, and said he would propose the Bancrofts -- Dow Jones' controlling shareholders -- set up a separate board for the Wall Street Journal to ensure its editorial independence.
In a separate report, the Wall Street Journal said News Corp. was planning to take its case for buying Dow Jones to the Bancrofts and the newsroom of the flagship newspaper.
Murdoch is considering making its case to Wall Street Journal's journalists detailing the company's plans for capital investment, the paper reported, citing unidentified sources.
News Corp. would address several issues such as increasing staffing in international bureaus and putting more capital behind the company's electronic properties, the Journal said.
In his interview in the Times, Murdoch also said he won't meddle in the Journal's journalism or cut staff. "We're not coming in with a bunch of cost-cutters," the paper quoted him as saying. "I'm not saying it's going to be a holiday camp for everybody."
But News Corp. plans to let some time pass before it begins any serious outreach to the Bancrofts, hoping to let the family sort out its own viewpoints first, the Journal reported. Murdoch told the Times that he had no intentions of breeding dissent among Bancroft family members to land the deal.
"I don't want to be in a position of putting one Bancroft against another Bancroft. I'm not in the business of stirring up trouble in the family," the Times quoted him as saying.
The Bancrofts are controlling owners who have nothing to do with the management of the company they control. And their interests are being represented in part by one man, Michael Elefante, who is both a trustee for many of the Bancroft's voting shares and a director of Dow Jones.
Elefante, who has not returned calls, has a strange role. He has a fiduciary duty to all Dow shareholders, but is also a trustee for some some but not all the Bancrofts.
Dow Jones has said the Bancrofts planned to vote shares constituting slightly more than 50% of the outstanding voting power against the bid. News Corp. could not immediately be reached for comment.