- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire investor Ron Burkle is working with a union representing workers at Dow Jones & Co. to explore alternatives to Rupert Murdoch’s $5 billion bid for the company, which publishes the Wall Street Journal.

The Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees (IAPE) said in a statement yesterday that it had reached out to Mr. Burkle, as well as the billionaire investor Warren Buffett and others, in an attempt to find other potential buyers for Dow Jones. The union strongly opposes Mr. Murdoch’s bid, saying he might slant the Journal’s coverage to suit his business interests.

Mr. Burkle, who made a fortune investing in supermarket chains, recently lost out on a joint bid for Tribune Co. with fellow investor Eli Broad, and also worked with newspaper unions on failed bids for Knight Ridder Inc. and for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

After initially rebuffing Mr. Murdoch’s offer in early May, Dow Jones’ controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, held an initial meeting with Mr. Murdoch and several of his senior executives Monday to discuss his interest in Dow Jones. IAPE, which represents about a quarter of Dow Jones employees, said it hoped the Bancrofts would decide not to sell the company, but that if they did, that they would consider alternatives to Mr. Murdoch.

Both Mr. Murdoch and a family representative said the talks Monday were “constructive,” but neither provided any further detail and it was not clear when any follow-up conversations might occur. The Bancroft family has said it is “resolute” in its commitment to protect the Journal’s independence and integrity.

In addition to the union, former Dow Jones Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter Kann has expressed opposition to Mr. Murdoch’s bid, as has former board member Jim Ottaway Jr., who controls 5 percent of the company’s shareholder vote.

The Journal ran a lengthy story on its front page yesterday saying that Mr. Murdoch’s media properties have made coverage decisions that advanced the interests of his media conglomerate, News Corp., blurring the line between the business and news sides of the company.

A News Corp. spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Burkle’s decision to work with the Dow Jones union. News Corp. has said any concerns about Mr. Murdoch meddling with the Journal’s news coverage are unwarranted. A Dow Jones spokeswoman declined to comment.

In Omaha, Neb., Mr. Buffett’s assistant Debbie Bosanek confirmed that a letter from the union had been received yesterday but would make no further comment.

The Bancroft family, who are descendants of former Dow Jones owner Clarence Barron, control 64 percent of the company’s shareholder vote through a special class of supervoting shares. They also own about 25 percent of the company’s economic interest.

In addition to the prestige of owning the most powerful newspaper in the U.S. business world, ownership of Dow Jones would give Mr. Murdoch a major leg up in starting a new all-news cable TV channel focused on business later this year.

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