Dow clan mulls sale

Bancrofts to return decision by week's end

Members of the Bancroft family convened at the Hilton in Boston on Monday to hash out a possible sale of Dow Jones to News Corp. The meeting was still thought to be going on at about 7 p.m. Monday.

The family is expected to consider the offer over the next few days and return a verdict this week, likely by Friday.

Family member Chris Bancroft told reporters gathered at the hotel that the family was “still undecided,” according to news outlets there.

If enough members oppose a sale, it would send Dow Jones back to square one as far as an exit strategy or a possible sale; News Corp. is not expected to make another offer at that point.

If a sufficient number of family members endorse the sale, however, it would fast-track the acquisition, leaving only formalities before News Corp. took control of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and other assets.

The Bancrofts control more than 60% of voting stock in Dow Jones. But only about 30% of those shares would be needed to approve the sale for it to go through, since it’s assumed that most of the remaining shareholders would vote in favor of the $5 billion offer.

The Ottaway family, the regional-newspaper scions who controls about 5% of the outstanding shares, are expected to vote against a sale.

The Bancrofts are comprised of three separate branches, each with their own voting power, numbering about three dozen adult members. Two of those members, Chris Bancroft and Leslie Hill, are thought to be strongly opposed to the deal; both are members of the Dow Jones board.

But how much sway Chris Bancroft — who controls what is thought to be about 14% of the stock — will have over other family members, particularly more sales-minded younger members, could be the key on which a potential approval turns.

A Bancroft rejection is expected to send the Dow Jones stock tumbling. Nervous investors sat tight Monday: the stock was roughly flat in light trading, with less than 2 million shares changing hands compared to an average of nearly 3 million.

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