The accidental director of News Corp

When the first meeting of the new News Corp board takes place there will be an unexpected name on the list. It will be Natalie Bancroft, a 27 year old opera singer who lives in Paris – and admits she has little knowledge of journalism or even commerce.

She has won her place on the board almost by accident. Or at least because of a misunderstanding.

Under the terms of the agreement with Rupert Murdoch, the Bancroft Family – the principal investors in Dow Jones – had the right to name one member to the new board .

But no one could agree who that should be. An original nominee was former WSJ managing editor Paul Steiger. Rupert Murdoch said he was amenable, but Steiger declined. He said he was involved in setting up a new company of his own.

Then the name of John Carroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times, was put forward. But he too declined the offer. Meanwhile the clock was ticking. Under the terms of the agreement with Rupert Murdoch the Bancrofts had a month to name a board member.

Almost before anyone realized it the deadline had passed. That’s when Miss Bancroft’s name came up, she volunteered her services.

Although she admitted her lack of experience in journalism, she felt that it was a position she had the capacity to handle. Her offer was endorsed by her father Hugh Bancroft III who declared: ‘She doesn’t puff up her chest – she is direct and to the point’.

In fact originally Ms Bancroft had opposed the idea of a Murdoch take-over of the paper the family had owned for so many years. ‘But then who deserves to own the paper?” she asked.

Despite the fact the deadline had passed, Murdoch – who its said always hoped for a woman on the board – after talking to Ms Bancroft in London – agreed to her nomination to the board.

Ms Bancroft, who has spent most of her life in Europe, has had a varied career. In addition to being a mezzo soprano opera singer (she studied music in Lausanne) she is also a Formula-One car-racing fan. Over the years she has not played an active part in her family’s involvement in Dow Jones. In fact when the final vote on the sale of the company for News Corp was taken she was sailing off the coast of Corsica

Bancroft’s appointment must still be approved by the other directors – but that is expected to be a formality.

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