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Pearson seeks partners for Dow Jones bid

- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 16, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Pearson PLC, publisher of the Financial Times, is trying to rally partners for a possible bid to rival Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion offer for Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., the Journal reported yesterday.

Pearson, based in Britain, has approached media company Hearst Corp. as well as General Electric Co. about a possible joint offer, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Spokesmen for Pearson didn't respond to messages for comment. A GE spokesman declined to comment, but GE's chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt, said recently that GE wasn't interested in Dow Jones. Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer responded in an e-mailed statement: "We don't respond to speculation on such topics."

Mr. Murdoch's News Corp., a vast global media conglomerate that includes the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, MySpace, the New York Post and many newspapers in Britain and Australia, has offered $60 a share for Dow Jones, well above the mid-$30s range the stock had been trading at prior to his offer becoming public. Many analysts think his price is too high to be countered.

Dow Jones' controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, initially rebuffed Mr. Murdoch's approach but then agreed to meet him to discuss their concerns that the Journal remain editorially independent.

A union that represents Dow Jones employees and Jim Ottaway Jr., a former board member and minority shareholder of Dow Jones, say they are concerned that Mr. Murdoch may meddle with the Journal's coverage to suit his business interests concerns that News Corp. says are unfounded.

A Bancroft family spokesman, Roy Winnick, said family members are still working on a proposal to News Corp. for setting up a structure that would safeguard the Journal's editorial independence, but he declined to provide details.

"The draft proposal as it currently stands continues to evolve from the draft proposal as it stood earlier this week," Mr. Winnick said in an e-mailed statement.

Mr. Murdoch's News Corp. can easily afford the $5 billion price he has offered for Dow Jones and has more than $7.3 billion in cash on hand as of the end of March, according to a regulatory filing. This week News Corp. said it would sell nine of its 35 TV stations, which analysts think could fetch another $1.3 billion or so.

Pearson, by contrast, is a far smaller company, with a stock market value of $13.7 billion. News Corp. has a current market capitalization of roughly $70 billion.