Pearson Approaches GE About Joint Bid for Dow Jones: Reports

Financial Times owner Pearson has approached US conglomerate General Electric about a joint bid for Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, according to reports.

According to the paper, Pearson's move comes in response to a $5 billion offer for Dow Jones last month from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., owner of the Times and Sunday Times newspapers in the UK.

Dow Jones' major shareholder, the Bancroft family, is currently seeking assurances from Murdoch over the continued editorial independence of the Wall Street Journal in the event of the News Corporation bid proceeding.

General Electric's existing media interests include CNBC.

Pearson did not return calls seeking comment.

A number of London-based analysts have said Murdoch's bid, if successful, could make Dow Jones a more aggressive competitor against Pearson. The Financial Times competes with the Wall Street Journal, although the paper, which has a stronghold in Europe, has far fewer U.S. readers than the New York-based Journal.

Steven Yount, president of the Dow Jones employee union, which is seeking other bidders to challenge Murdoch, said on Friday he was unaware of any interest from Pearson.

"I have not reached out to Pearson and they have not talked to me," he said.

The union has approached Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett about making a bid for Dow Jones. Berkshire Hathaway owns about 20% of the outstanding shares of the Washington Post Co.

Billionaire investor Ron Burkle is advising the union on bids.

Another potential bidder for Dow Jones is Brian Tierney, who led an investor group to buy The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. Tierney has said he would be interested in working with partners on a bid.

The Bancroft family met Murdoch earlier this month, but some members have opposed his bid because they fear he would not preserve the editorial independence of Dow Jones's news operations.

Pearson is the world's largest educational publisher. It publishes school textbooks, the Financial Times and Les Echos newspapers and general-interest books at its Penguin unit.

The company, headed by Texas-born Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino, has been particularly active on the acquisition front recently, although its deals have centered on strengthening its hand in education publishing businesses.

On May 14, Pearson announced a $477 million acquisition of Nasdaq-listed, a U.S. online distance learning business.

Earlier in May, Pearson made another strategic play in the education sector with the $950 million acquisition of Harcourt Assessment and Harcourt Education, two assets owned by Anglo-Dutch electronic publisher Reed Elsevier.