Bancroft's 10pm deadline on WSJ sale to Murdoch

The Bancroft Family have until 10pmt tonight (UK time) to decide whether to sell enough shares in Dow Jones to give Rupert Murdoch ownership of the Wall Street Journal.

That, reportedly, is the deadline the chairman of News Corp has now set. ‘After that he has reiterated he will walk away”, said one observer privy to the negotiations.

Murdoch, it’s said, is becoming increasingly irritated over the indecision of the Bancrofts, the family which has owned the WSJ for more than a century. It’s trying his patience, some say..

As one observer, quoted in the New York Times, put it, some of the family are so undecided about what to do and what to ask for they are like someone going to a Chinese restaurant and then ordering pizza

At the same time people close to the family said the fate of the WSJ is still too close to call.

The board of Dow Jones has supposedly approved the $60 a share offered by Murdoch – which is almost twice the price at which shares in Dow Jones were trading when the Murdoch offer was made almost three months ago. But there are some shareholders who, although willing to sell, are holding out for more.

What will happen if Murdoch’s offer is turned down? There are several scenarios. One is that the stock will fall to $36 – which is what the shares were fetching before the deal became public. Shares might even fall to the low thirties.

A second possibility is the stock might stay in the mid-forties in the belief that there may be other interested bidders who might step in if Murdoch quits the scene. But that is considered unlikely.

The third scenario might involve Dow Jones trying to solve the company’s financial problems and try to make it more profitable. But that might involve lay-offs and upset the already troubled staff.

And what is really worse, should the Dow Jones board decide to sell – at a lower price than Murdoch offered – that could open a floodgate of lawsuits from disgruntled shareholders who might have been willing to sell and seen the money they were offered disappear from the table in front of them.

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