“Watchdog committee” to oversee Murdoch's Dow Jones takeover

The five-member committee – a condition in the purchase from majority shareholders the Bancroft family – was designed to appease shareholders who suggested Murdoch would ‘cheapen’the century-old financial daily or use it for his own political ends.

The best-known journalist among the five is Lou Boccardi, a former editor and chief executive of Associated Press. Another journalist member is Thomas Bray, a columnist and former editorial page editor on The Detroit News.

The others are Jennifer Dunn, a former Republican Congresswoman, Jack Fuller, a former Chicago Tribune writer and Nicholas Negroponte, former chairman of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and one of the founders of Wired Magazine.

What they will be paid for this controversial and contentious role has not been disclosed, but they can expect whatever decisions they make to be closely scrutinised by Murdoch’s critics.

News Corp has agreed to retain the Journal’s current managing editor, editorial page editor and several other top executives who cannot be fired or replaced without the agreement of the new watchdog committee. The committee will also referee any disputes that may arise as a result of the takeover.

Each of the five will be paid $100,000 a year plus expenses but it will be no easy job. They can expect whatever decisions they make to be closely scrutinised – and probably criticised.

Some former shareholders, members of the Bancroft Family, who have shared ownership in the Journal for almost a century, are still quibbling. Some claim they were pressured to accept News Corp’s offer by their legal advisors who themselves stood to gain financially from the deal.

A deciding factor in the deal was News Corp’s promise to pay shareholders’ legal expenses. Those bills, some running to millions of dollars, have already started coming in. Altogether News Corp may have to pay out over $30m on top of the $5bn – or $60 a share – called for in the original offer.

Other than members of the Bancroft family, the biggest winners are expected to be Peter Kann, the long-standing editor of the Journal, and his wife Karen, a former Journal publisher. Between them they can expect to collect $40 million for their shares.

In the event of the deal falling apart at the last minute Dow Jones will be required to pay a $165m ‘break-up’fee to News Corp. If that doesn’t happen, the deal is expected to be formalised in December.

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