News Corp. playing waiting game

Bancrofts' decision on Dow buy still not in

A self-imposed deadline came and went for the Bancrofts with no decision Monday on whether to accept News Corp.’s bid to buy Dow Jones.

The family had set a 5 p.m. ET deadline to make an announcement, but there was no word of a verdict late in the evening.

Though deliberations have now worn on for over a week, some family members had reportedly chafed at the idea of any deadline at all on a sale.

With 64% of the voting stock, the Bancrofts essentially have the power to approve or decline a sale. But the family has been split on the issue, with most accounts saying the vote was too close to call.

Earlier in the day News Corp. tried to hold the family’s feet to the fire, telling news outlets that it would not want to put the sale to a decisive shareholder vote if the family shares were split.

News Corp.’s rationale is that it wouldn’t want to endure a lengthy proxy process — and, no doubt, an arduous campaign in the court of public opinion — if it didn’t have a reasonable certainty of winning approval. But it was unclear whether the company would in fact drop its bid or was simply seeking leverage with its comments.

News Corp. could soon reveal how serious it is about pursuing a sale in the face of a divided family. The Bancrofts may inform News of its vote tally before it makes the results public, allowing News to either push ahead with its bid or drop its offer.

Either way, it’s increasingly evident that News Corp. is frustrated with the Bancrofts’ leisurely pace of deliberation. What had been expected as an imminent, if uncertain, resolution when Dow Jones voted to recommend the sale has turned into a two-week waiting game that shows few signs of ending.

Pace is decidedly slower than with Murdoch’s other recent acquisitions, which have usually involved startups or public companies and thus a more formal approval process.

The delay, ironically, could increase the value of Murdoch’s bid. The stock dropped 5% on Monday’s reports of family opposition, meaning that News’ offer of $60-per-share is now a 16% premium over the current trading price.

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