- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Rupert Murdoch stepped up his campaign to woo the family that controls Dow Jones & Co. yesterday, meeting with key members of the Bancroft family in person to offer assurances that the Wall Street Journal would continue its long tradition of excellence under his stewardship.

The family had initially rebuffed Mr. Murdoch’s $5 billion offer for the company in early May, but last Thursday they agreed to meet with him. The family said they were most concerned about protecting the editorial independence and integrity of the Wall Street Journal.

The union representing Dow Jones employees, which strongly opposes Mr. Murdoch’s bid, said yesterday it had retained financial advisers to explore alternatives to selling the company to the media mogul.

The Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees said that it was working with a firm called Ownership Associates of Cambridge, Mass., to reach out to potential investors.

That firm had also worked with newspaper union representatives last year in an effort to buy Knight Ridder Inc., which wound up being sold to McClatchy Co., a California newspaper company. Steve Yount, the president of IAPE, declined to say which potential investors they were approaching.

Dow Jones didn’t return calls seeking comment about the meeting with Mr. Murdoch, but the Journal reported yesterday that the meeting, to be held at the Bancrofts’ law firm of Wachtel, Lipton in New York, would be part social gathering and part business meeting. Mr. Murdoch was seen entering the law firm’s building yesterday afternoon.

Also expected to attend the meeting were Mr. Murdoch’s son, James, who runs British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, a company part-owned by Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp. media conglomerate, as well as News Corp.’s chief financial officer and general counsel.

On the Bancroft family side, the three family members who serve on Dow Jones’ board of directors were expected to attend — Chris Bancroft, Leslie Hill and Elizabeth Steele — as well as a family trustee and fellow board member Michael Elefante, Dow Jones Chairman Peter McPherson and the family’s lawyer Martin Lipton.

The Bancroft family controls 64 percent of the company’s shareholder vote through a special class of shares, and can block any attempt to take over the company.

In early May the family had said they had 52 percent of the shareholder vote lined up against Mr. Murdoch, but in recent weeks they have softened their position.

Mr. Murdoch’s offer represents a premium of about 65 percent over Dow Jones’ closing price before the deal became public, and just two days after they initially voiced opposition to Mr. Murdoch’s offer, news leaked out that Thomson Corp. would buy fellow financial news and information provider Reuters Group PLC, putting additional pressure on Dow Jones to consider how it can effectively compete.

The Dow Jones union said it is concerned about maintaining the quality and independence of the Journal under Mr. Murdoch, particularly coverage in China, where he has business interests. News Corp. has said those concerns are unwarranted.

After rising sharply Friday following the news that the Bancrofts had agreed to meet with Mr. Murdoch, Dow Jones’ shares slipped $1.04 or 1.7 percent lower to $60.16 yesterday, just above the $60 per share price that Mr. Murdoch has offered.

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