Final meeting of Bancrofts to decide WSJ bid

Just one more meeting is said to now stand now in the way of Rupert Murdoch taking over the Wall Street Journal.

Thirty members of the Bancroft Family principal owners of the WSJ for more than a century have gathered in Boston to finally endorse – or reject – the deal. A close vote is predicted.

As the NY Times put it the stakes are high, both financially and journalistically. Before the News Corp bid became known the Bancrofts’ shares were worth less than $750 million – around £400 million. At $60 a share – the price Murdoch has offered – the family’s stake is now worth than $1,200 million. Even spread out between the 30 family members that is not, some say, easy to ignore.

“They are not so well off as to be able to scoff at Murdoch’s money”, said James Ottoway, a retired Dow Jones executive who is a major shareholder, who originally urged the Bancrofts to reject the offer but now concedes that is asking them quite a lot – at least in the short run. There is a belief that if the Bancrofts reject the offer their stock could fall below the $36 it was selling at before Murdoch made his bid. (The stock last week was selling at $55)

Dow Jones stock pays one dollar a year in dividends, which means the family receives an annual income from the shares of about $21 million dollars. Money from Murdoch, if re-invested, could bring in much more than that it has been estimated.

The family dividends are spread, according to the NY Times, among many people, but primarily the eight members of the oldest living generation and one person in the next generation. It works at to less than $2 million a year apiece. Smaller sums go to a score or more children. Most of the money – for the moment – is tied up in trusts which would have to be untangled.

There is waiting the wings someone who has offered to loan the Bancrofts between $400 and $600 million to buy out members of the family who want to sell. The offer comes from Brad Greenspan, founder of My Space, a popular and highly profitable website which Murdoch bought recently. But if the offer is being taken seriously no-one will say.

Whatever happens there is little doubt that Murdoch has made his biggest ever impact on American publishing. Earlier this month he was featured on the cover of Time magazine – and already there is talk (should the deal be concluded and he gains control of the WSJ) of him being nominated Time’s Person of the Year.

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