Rupert Murdoch meets with Bancroft family over Dow Jones bid

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Rupert Murdoch stepped up his campaign to woo the family that controls Dow Jones & Co. on June 4, 2007, meeting with key members of the Bancroft family in person to offer assurances that The Wall Street Journal would continue its long tradition of excellence under his stewardship.

The family had initially rebuffed Murdoch's $5 billion offer for the company in early May, but last Thursday they agreed to meet with him. In a statement, the family said they were most concerned about protecting the editorial independence and integrity of the Wall Street Journal.

The union representing Dow Jones employees, which strongly opposes Murdoch's bid, said Monday it had retained financial advisers to explore alternatives to selling the company to Murdoch.

The Independent Association of Publishers' Employees said in a statement that it was working with a firm called Ownership Associates of Cambridge, Mass., to reach out to potential investors.

That firm had also worked with newspaper union representatives last year in an effort to buy the Knight Ridder Inc., which wound up being sold to McClatcjavascript:mceToggle('edit-body', 'wysiwyg4body');hy Co., a California-based newspaper company. Steve Yount, the president of IAPE, declined in an interview to say which potential investors they were approaching.

Dow Jones didn't return calls seeking comment about the meeting with Murdoch, but the Journal reported Monday that the gathering at the Bancrofts' law firm of Wachtel, Lipton in New York, would be part social gathering and part business meeting.

Murdoch emerged from the building late Monday afternoon and said the meeting had been long and constructive, but he did not go into detail. A Bancroft family spokesman said the two sides ``had a constructive dialogue and have gone back to consider our positions,'' but he declined to elaborate.

In addition to Murdoch, also expected to attend were Murdoch's son James, who runs British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, a company part-owned by Murdoch's News Corp. media conglomerate, as well as News Corp.'s chief financial officer and general counsel.

On the Bancroft family side, the three family members who serve on Dow Jones' board of directors were expected to attend _ Chris Bancroft, Leslie Hill and Elizabeth Steele _ as well as a family trustee and fellow board member Michael Elefante, Dow Jones Chairman Peter McPherson and the family's lawyer Martin Lipton.

The Bancroft family controls 64 per cent of the company's shareholder vote through a special class of supervoting shares, and can block any attempt to take over the company. Their economic stake in the company is worth about 25 per cent, according to Dow Jones' proxy statement.

In early May the family had said they had 52 per cent of the shareholder vote lined up against Murdoch, but in recent weeks they have softened their position.

Murdoch's offer represents a huge premium of about 65 per cent over Dow Jones' closing price before the deal became public, and just two days after they initially voiced opposition to Murdoch's offer, news leaked out that Thomson Corp. would buy fellow financial news and information provider Reuters Group PLC, putting additional pressure on Dow Jones to consider how it can effectively compete.

The Dow Jones union said it is concerned about maintaining the quality and independence of the Journal under Murdoch, particularly of coverage in China, where he has business interests. News Corp. has said those concerns are unwarranted.

After rising sharply on Friday following the news that the Bancrofts had agreed to meet with Murdoch, Dow Jones' shares slipped $1.04 or 1.7 per cent lower to $60.16 in New York Monday, just above the $60 per share price that Murdoch has offered.

Source: AP

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