- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Rupert Murdoch is stepping up his campaign to woo the controlling shareholders of Dow Jones & Co., the Bancroft family, promising them a board seat on his media conglomerate, News Corp., as well as measures to ensure the independence of the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Murdoch, in a letter to the Bancroft family dated May 11, promised to set up an independent editorial board for the Journal as he did with the Times of London, which would arbitrate any disputes between editors and management. The board also would have to sign off on any decision to hire or fire the top two editors at the paper.

The Journal reported news of Mr. Murdoch’s overture to the Bancrofts yesterday on its Web site and posted the text of the letter, which News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher confirmed as accurate. A spokesman for the Bancroft family declined to comment.

Mr. Murdoch approached Dow Jones March 29, and news of his subsequent offer became public May 1. Since then, the Bancroft family, which controls the company’s shareholder vote through a special class of shares, has said they are opposed to the bid.

However, the Bancrofts have not rejected his bid outright and are not unanimous in their opposition, having lined up only 52 percent of the shareholder vote against him, short of the 64 percent voting bloc they control. About 80 percent of the family are opposed to the bid.

The union representing Journal employees has voiced strong opposition to Mr. Murdoch’s offer, saying they fear he would “crush quality and independence” at the paper, and another significant stockholder, Jim Ottaway Jr., has said he opposes ownership by Mr. Murdoch. Mr. Ottaway controls about 5 percent of Dow Jones’ vote.

Mr. Murdoch assures the Bancroft family in his letter that “first and foremost, I am a newspaper man.”

“I don’t apologize for the fact that I have always had strong opinions and strong ideas about newspapers; but I have also always respected the independence and integrity of the news organizations with which I am associated.”

Mr. Murdoch said the Journal represented “American journalism at its best. … Any interference — or even hint of interference — would break the trust that exists between the paper and its readers, something I am unwilling to countenance.”

Mr. Murdoch did not raise his offer for Dow Jones, which is currently $60 a share, valuing the company at about $5 billion.

The offer represents a huge premium of more than 65 percent over Dow Jones’ share price before the bid became public, and the stock has jumped since then to approach the level of Mr. Murdoch’s offer. The shares rose 67 cents yesterday, or 1.3 percent, to $53.77.

Mr. Murdoch said in his letter that he would like to use News Corp.’s considerable global resources to expand Dow Jones’ operations overseas as well as the Journal’s Washington coverage, and to upgrade Dow Jones’ headquarters in New York.

Mr. Murdoch, whose company owns the Fox News Channel, the New York Post and newspapers in England and Australia as well as MySpace and Twentieth Century Fox, has said he hopes to use the Journal’s resources to help start a business-themed cable news network later this year to rival General Electric Co.’s CNBC.

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