This afternoon, Rupert Murdoch and his son James meet with three members of the Bancroft family to discuss his bid to buy Dow Jones, Inc., publisher among other things of The Wall Street Journal. The meeting will be held at the offices of Wachtell Lipton, advisers to the Bancrofts, and has been designed as “part social gathering and part business meeting,” the Journal reports.
Christopher Bancroft, Leslie Hill and Elizabeth Steele are meant to be made socially comfortable with Rupert and James at this meeting (though Dow Jones Chair Peter McPherson and Wachtell honcho Marty Lipton will also be there) and to receive assurances that its properties could maintain editorial independence from Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire.
To that end, the Journal cited sources at News Corp. saying Murdoch is prepared to offer more stringnet guarantees of editorial independence to Dow Jones publications than he has offered to other newspapers in the past.
But just how far he’s willing to go isn’t yet clear. In a statement Friday Murdoch proposed a board to guarantee the editorial independence of Dow Jones, Inc. from his own family, but blasted the idea that the Bancrofts might be able to control such a board themselves.
Such a board should comprise “people with absolutely no business connections to me nor the family,” Mr. Murdoch said, adding that the family “can’t sell [Dow Jones] and keep it” by joining a newly created board. “I can’t put down $5 billion of my shareholders’ money and not be able to run the business,” Mr. Murdoch said.
But he will have to go farther to guarantee the Bancrofts editorial independence than he did when he acquired the Times of London in 1981:
Some critics have said the [Times] board has proved ineffective, failing to stop Mr. Murdoch from forcing out editors he didn’t like — most famously Harold Evans in 1982. The Bancroft family isn’t expected to try to re-create the Times board, according to people familiar with the discussions. Among Mr. Murdoch and his advisers — JPMorgan Chase, Centerview Partners, Allen & Co. and law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — there is a growing view that the “Times of London” structure won’t be adequate to convince the Bancrofts to sell.
Expect something to look more like the Reuters-Thomson arrangement, the Journal reports.