Bancrofts, Divided On Sale, To Meet With Murdoch

In a statement released last night, the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones Inc., accepted Rupert Murdoch's invitation to meet members of his family to discuss the possibility of selling the company to News Corp.

And it looks like it's not just a courtesy call:

'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 issues that divide the Bancrofts appear not to have changed, and the statement indicated that it remained to be seen "whether, in the context of the current or any modified News Corporation proposal, it will be possible to ensure the level of commitment to editorial independence, integrity and journalistic freedom that is the hallmark of Dow Jones."

The Wall Street Journal today portrayed the Bancrofts as divided on the prospect of a sale:

[O]ver the past several weeks, the roughly three dozen adult members of the Bancroft family have been in frequent contact to discuss possible alternatives. Some family members have become convinced that "the status quo" is no longer an option for Dow Jones, according to people familiar with their thinking. … A particular concern is the planned $17.2 billion merger of Reuters Group PLC and Thomson Corp., which surfaced just days after Mr. Murdoch's offer for Dow Jones became public.

And the newspaper, which is owned by Dow Jones, suggested that the statement left open the possibility of considering other bidders. None, however, have surfacd since Mr. Murdoch made his unasked-for bid weeks ago.

Curiously, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Richard Perez-Pena over at The Times appear to have the more exhaustive tick-tock, which has been rare in a story where The Wall Street Journal has been able to call the shots. Of course, its full of odd phrases like, "weighed heavily on some family members, said some family members."

But the context is still illuminating:

[Murdoch's] third letter to the family, offering an independent board to oversee the editorial integrity of The Journal, weighed heavily on some family members, said some family members.

More decisive was a presentation given by the chief executive of Dow Jones, Richard F. Zannino, that laid out the company’s future with and without a sale. For several family members, Mr. Zannino was far more persuasive in describing the former, suggesting that the company was unlikely to achieve results that would match Mr. Murdoch’s offer.

Read the full text of the Dow Jones statement here.