U.S. News

Bancroft Dow Jones Decision Expected Next Week


The family that controls Dow Jones expects to decide by early next week if it wants to sell the company to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for $5 billion, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The Bancroft family holds 64% of Dow Jones's voting shares and their adviser, Hemenway & Barnes lawyer Michael Elefante, is canvassing family members this week to see if they would approve the bid.

The process should be complete around the beginning of next week, the source said, who asked not to be named.

Christopher Bancroft, a Dow Jones board member who opposes Murdoch's proposed takeover of the company that publishes The Wall Street Journal, had told reporters on Monday that he expected a decision by the end of this week.

But, the source said, "Friday was never contemplated as the decision date."

The Bancrofts had met in Boston on Monday to officially receive Murdoch's bid and to ask bankers, advisers and lawyers any questions they had about it.

Once the poll is complete, Elefante, who is also a Dow Jones board member, is expected to deliver the results to the boards of Dow Jones and News Corp. to let them determine whether they have enough family backing to proceed.

The Bancrofts's decision is uncertain, particularly after media reports that opposition to News Corp may be growing among the family's ranks.

Dow Jones shares fell $2.02, or 3.69%, to close at $52.67 on Tuesday as investors worried that Bancroft opposition might jeopardize Murdoch's bid.

Christopher Bancroft, who did not return a telephone call for comment, is seeking alternatives to block Murdoch from taking over the company.

He and some other family members fear that Murdoch would interfere with Dow Jones's news operations to further his business interests. The Dow Jones employee union also is seeking other bidders.

Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan has offered to lend the Bancrofts $400 million to $600 million to buy out relatives who want to sell, in exchange for two board seats on Dow Jones, which owns Dow Jones Newswires, the Barron's investor newspaper and the Factiva online news archive.

Greenspan also has proposed to load up Dow Jones with debt to fund digital expansion, and would start a third business news channel to compete with General Electric's CNBC and Murdoch's own Fox business channel, due to start in October.

Elefante, who also did not return a telephone call seeking comment, told reporters in Boston on Monday that the family meeting was productive and said the Bancrofts now had all the information they needed to "make a good decision on the News Corp offer."

Murdoch has said in media reports that he would not raise his bid, despite analysts' speculation that he might sweeten it to get the deal through more quickly.