Murdoch, Dow Jones move closer to closing deal


Talks between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Dow Jones Co. have accelerated and the two sides appear closer to reaching an agreement on protecting the editorial independence of The Wall Street Journal, according to news reports today.

With no other serious bidders in sight for Dow Jones, Murdoch could wind up winning control of the company if the two sides can agree on measures to safeguard the Journal's news coverage.

Murdoch has offered $5 billion for Dow Jones, which also owns Barron's and Dow Jones Newswires. Dow Jones also owns Ottaway Media Group, which includes the Ashland Daily Tidings.

Dow Jones' controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, have said their top concern is protecting the Journal's reputation for integrity and independence. With 64 percent of the company's shareholder vote, they can block any deal they don't like.

The New York Times and the Journal reported today that News Corp. had responded to proposals from Dow Jones about an editorial oversight board that would be created to protect the Journal from corporate interference. Dow Jones and News Corp. each declined to comment.

Murdoch has offered $60 a share for Dow Jones, a huge premium of about 65 percent above the mid-$30s share price Dow Jones was trading at prior to the offer being made public in early May. Many on Wall Street believe the price is too high to be matched other bidders.

Dow Jones shares fell $1.12 to $57.68 in midday trading today.

Last week two things happened to accelerate the talks between Dow Jones and Murdoch, which had been in slow gear for the past several weeks as the Bancroft family debated proposals for protecting the Journal.

General Electric Co., which owns the business news cable channel CNBC, and Pearson PLC, a London-based educational publisher that owns the Financial Times newspaper, said they had abandoned early-stage talks about combining CNBC, the FT and Dow Jones.

Also, Dow Jones' board said it was taking the lead in pursuing talks with News Corp., taking over from the Bancroft family. The family can still block any proposed deal and leave Dow Jones independent.

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