Bancroft Clan Squashes Rupert’s $5 Billion Dow Bid

Several reports have surfaced over the intervening years in which Dow Jones shareholders identified Mr. Murdoch as the obvious buyer should the Bancroft family finally decide to sell. On the other hand, Mr. Murdoch has never been quiet about his interest in the company; in a May 2006 article by Franklin Foer that appeared in New York magazine, one source reportedly quoted Mr. Murdoch as saying to shareholders: “There’s no other property in the world I would love to acquire more.”

“If you think about Rupert Murdoch owning Dow Jones, the [Journal] editorial page, Fox News and New York Post,” said Alex S. Jones, the director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, “you have a conservative ideological juggernaut that he would control.”

Mr. Murdoch himself fueled that speculation in an interview with Forbes’ Peter Kafka in February.

“He concedes there are pieces of the Tribune Co. he’d like to own,” Mr. Kafka wrote, “more likely Newsday than the Los Angeles Times—at a fire sale price, of course. Dow Jones? Yes, but the Bancroft family, Murdoch believes, isn’t prepared to sell. ‘Maybe in five, 10, 20 years,’ he muses. ‘But I won’t be here’.”

And so Mr. Murdoch decided to change course and gather his rosebuds right away.

“I think, if I were the Bancrofts, I would say, ‘What does this guy think he’s doing?’” said Mr. Jones. “Unless he had an understanding beforehand, he basically is stampeding them. When people get stampeded, I think they dig in their heels.”

It was just about two weeks ago—right around when Mr. Murdoch’s bid came in—that Peter Kann, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who had been the company’s chief executive since 1991, stepped down from his last remaining role at the organization, as chairman of the company’s board.

Mr. Kann, like the Bancrofts, had been the target of much of the staff’s discontent at Dow Jones. But in interviews, there was always another side to their opinion of both Mr. Kann and the Bancrofts.

One reporter, speaking to Mr. Foer last year for the New York piece, offered a litany of complaints about Mr. Kann’s management of the company: Over the preceding few years, layoffs and reductions in benefits had resulted in several threatened strikes at the company.

“On the other hand,” the reporter said to Mr. Foer, “he’s all that separates us from ‘Page Six’ and Bill O’Reilly.”

Apparently not.