Dow Jones Deal Draws Near, Despite Manic Scuttling Efforts

The Wall Street Journal is citing sources on both sides of the deal saying that the purchase of Dow Jones Inc. by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is almost a done deal.

Today, Dow Jones C.E.O. Richard F. Zannino sits down with Mr. Murdoch to hammer out the price–the one topic, according to the Journal report, that hasn't been hammered out between the two parties.

And that's where the wrinkle is. The Journal piece begins by taking us behind the scenes, where we find one member of the Bancroft family, 55-year-old Christopher, who is one of three of the family members that actually sits on the board of directors, desperately trying to cobble together money to purchase "supershares" from other Bancrofts who may be more inclined to sell than he.

His opposition to the deal has largely taken place behind the scenes. And few who were interviewed expected Christopher Bancroft’s efforts to come to much.

But, citing sources close to Dow Jones, the Journal surmised that Christopher's prominence, and his objections to the deal, could be used as a lever in final negotiations with Mr. Murdoch:

Mr. Murdoch hasn't shown any interest in raising his bid. Because any agreement between the companies would have to pass muster with the family, rebellions by family directors such as Mr. Bancroft carry some weight.

Completely separate from Mr. Bancroft's initiatives are those of his cousin, a company director named Leslie Hill:

Ms. Hill's resistance to a deal with Mr. Murdoch helped win an audience with the Dow Jones board for supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan, who have been working together to fund a partial buyout of the company. Earlier, General Electric Co. and Pearson PLC abandoned an effort to bid for Dow Jones because the price was too high.

But it appears Ms. Hill has always been critical of Mr. Bancroft–punctuality is a key point with her, it seems, and she's criticized Mr. Bancrofts attendance record at meetings.

So, those are two unlikely (and unaligned) efforts to find a different buyer for Dow Jones. And while it seems unlikely that either will succeed, Mr. Zannino may be happy to have this article to hand when he sits down with Mr. Murdoch.

Last but not least there is the longtime holdout, James Ottaway, whom we profile this morning. His efforts do not appear to have amounted to much beyond direct appeals to the Bancrofts to keep Dow Jones out of Rupert Murdoch's hands.

But then, effors like Ms. Hill’s don’t appear to have amounted to much, either.

“I don’t think they have made a very credible or persuasive proposal from the few details I’ve heard,” said Mr. Ottaway of the Greenspan-Burkle meeting with Dow Jones last Tuesday. “Apparently they did not make a terribly good impression on the Dow Jones negotiating committee in their meeting two days ago. I’m not very optimistic about that.”