In an unexpected turnabout, the Bancroft clan that controls Dow Jones issued a statement Thursday stating it would meet with reps from News Corp. and other bidders for the parent company of the Wall Street Journal.
The statement emphasized that its overriding concern in meeting with News Corp. is to determine whether the company would be able to “ensure the level of commitment to editorial independence, integrity and journalistic freedom that is the hallmark of Dow Jones.”
The Bancrofts had summarily rejected Rupert Murdoch’s surprising $5 billion bid for the company last month. On Thursday afternoon, however, the family issued a statement to the Wall Street Journal saying it will consider Murdoch’s bid, in addition to offers from other suitors and other options for the company, which also includes the Dow Jones, MarketWatch and Factiva financial news and information services.
“After a detailed review of the business of Dow Jones and the evolving competitive environment in which it operates, the family has reached consensus that the mission of Dow Jones may be better accomplished in combination or collaboration with another organization, which may include News Corporation,” the statement read.
In a press release issued Thursday night, Michael Elefante, a Dow Jones director and lawyer who has long repped the Bancrofts, said that the family planned to meet with Murdoch and other News Corp. execs “solely to discuss issues relating to journalistic integrity” for Dow Jones publications. The statement said that the Bancrofts planned to have another Dow Jones board member present during all of its discussions with Murdoch and News Corp.
Murdoch’s moves on Dow Jones have raised a stir inside the Journal and in journalism circles, with many critics expressing fear that the media baron with global reach would extend the tabloid bent of News Corp.’s other papers, which include the New York Post, to the respected business publication. Murdoch is eyeing the acquisition of Dow Jones in part to bolster its presence in the Wall Street news arena as News Corp. prepares for the launch of the Fox Business Channel cabler later this year.
The Bancrofts control about 25% of the shares in Dow Jones but have 64% of the voting power in the company. In Thursday’s statement, the family that has controlled the Journal since 1902 emphasized that it “remains resolute in its commitment to preserve and protect the editorial independence and integrity of the Wall Street Journal.”
News Corp. reps did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The bid News Corp. mounted on May 1 valued Dow Jones at roughly $60 per share. Dow Jones shares closed up 46¢ at $53.31 Thursday prior to the release of the family’s statement.