The Magnificent Bancrofts: Giant Dow Jones Family Breaking Up Over Sale

Today's Wall Street Journal has some valuable retread over the events at Tuesday night's meeting between representatives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the board of directors of Dow Jones Inc., which is considering selling itself to the Australian-born media mogul.

There was acrimony: In the opening minutes of the meeting, while Dow Jones board chair M. Peter McPherson was making a presentation about the Murdoch bid to the board, Christopher Bancroft, who has been trying to find investors to help him buy out other Bancrofts who might be inclined to vote for the sale, interrupted to ask whether he should leave, since he was actively trying to scuttle the bid. The directors huddled and said, 'yes,' and he left, ultimately abstaining from the vote.

There was heartbreak: Elizabeth Steele, whose branch of the family was seen early on as likely to oppose a sale, gave a speech:

In an emotional statement to the board Tuesday night, Ms. Steele said the company had been in her family for 100 years and that she "never thought we would get to this point." She told directors that she would never know how safe the paper would be in Mr. Murdoch's hands, but that after examining the overall business conditions of the newspaper industry, it was better to sell the paper now than to wait, these people said.

So when all 35 Bancrofts meet in the offices of their longtime legal representatives, the firm of Hemenway & Barnes in Boston, expect more of the same.

Meanwhile, preparations for a deal march on, with representatives from News Corp. and Dow Jones already vetting a list of names for the five-person editorial-independence oversight board the two companies agreed to form if a deal went through.

Among potential candidates being considered by News Corp. and Dow Jones are: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general of the U.S. and partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Washington D.C. office; Jack Fuller, former president of Tribune Publishing and a director of the board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Thomas Bray, the former editorial-page editor of the Detroit News and a writer for OpinionJournal.com; and Susan Hockfield, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was unclear how many of the candidates had been approached, if any, about the board. The candidates under consideration couldn't be reached for comment.

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