Bancroft Clan Squashes Rupert’s $5 Billion Dow Bid

They hammered out the wording pretty fast:

“The staff, from top to bottom, opposes a Rupert Murdoch takeover of Dow Jones & Co.,” the statement read.

It was the earliest and most forceful sign of distaste from the company for Mr. Murdoch’s offer—and a somewhat ironic love letter to the Bancroft family, since the union has been in increasingly heated disputes with ownership over employee benefits and layoffs.

“Since the early part of the twentieth century, the Bancroft family has stood up for the independence and quality of The Wall Street Journal and has built it into one of the world’s great newspapers,” it read. “Mr. Murdoch has shown a willingness to crush quality and independence, and there is no reason to think he would handle Dow Jones or The Journal any differently. Despite our differences of opinion with current management, we strongly encourage the Bancrofts to continue to stand up for the institution’s independence, and to walk away from this offer.”

Longtime newspaper analyst John Morton was an early-in-the-day skeptic.

“Unless there has been a huge sea change—a tsunami—in the Bancroft family’s attitude, this is all going to come to naught,” said Mr. Morton. “I doubt whether there has been any change.”

“I don’t think the Bancrofts are unhappy,” Mr. Morton continued. “Their return on investment is still running around 16 percent. It’s not like this is a company that is in financial trouble …. There’s no way it would go through for $5 billion—let’s put it that way.”

But even he conceded that the moment of suspense was an exciting one.

“That would give him one of the two strongest newspaper franchises in the world,” said Mr. Morton, “the other being The New York Times. He already owns The Times of London, which may be the third-strongest. It would give News Corp. great gravitas, both overseas and in this country.”

Dow Jones publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and The Far Eastern Economic Review, as well as owning the Dow Jones Newswires, Factiva, the Dow Jones Licensing Services, the Dow Jones Indexes and the Dow Jones Financial Information Services. Dow Jones also owns 50 percent of SmartMoney and provides news content to CNBC and radio stations in the U.S.

Analysts were quick to point to Rupert Murdoch’s plan to expand the Fox News enterprise into financial journalism.

“I don’t think it will have any effect on the New York Post,” said Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman. “It will have an effect on CNBC—it’s a bold and aggressive move.”

“This is very different than buying just a newspaper company,” said Edward Atorino, the media analyst with the Benchmark Company. “Behind this, if you think back a few months, News Corp. has this design to build a business channel. Going after Dow Jones creates an instant credibility, brand name, content.”

But Mr. Murdoch’s dream of owning Dow Jones long predates whatever particular schemes for financial-news programming that News Corp has recently undertaken.

Jim Cramer said in a television interview at one point that he first talked to Mr. Murdoch about buying Dow Jones in 1996—for significantly more than $60 a share.

A year later, in 1997, Mr. Murdoch reportedly floated the idea to Dow Jones chief executive Peter Kann.