Bancroft seeks to block Murdoch WSJ bid

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has reached a tentative agreement to acquire the Wall Street Journal’s parent company Dow Jones, the financial paper reports today.

The deal, said to be for the original asking price of $5 billion (£2.5b) will be put to the full Dow Jones board this evening, the Journal reports.

But the battle against Murdoch’s attempt to take over the publishing group and its flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, is by no means over. At least one leading member of the Bancroft family, the principal shareholders in Dow Jones for close to a century, has been trying privately to buy up shares in the company to forestall Murdoch’s bid for group.

Christopher Bancroft, 55, and apparently vehemently against the Murdoch take-over bid. A trustee overseeing about 15 per cent of the company’s voting shares, he has spent recent weeks in a quest to muster support from hedge funs, private equity firms and other investors to buy enough voting shares to torpedo News Corp’s offer.

It is, everyone believes, a long-shot. But Christopher Bancroft is a key member of the Bancroft family, one of three members of the family on the Dow Jones board. He and two siblings, a niece and their children control about a third of the Bancroft family shares in Dow Jones.

His aim is to acquire enough ‘super shares’in the company – which gave family members ten votes for every share (compared to one vote per share for ordinary shareholders) – to foil the Murdoch bid. The main obstacle is that it means he will have to invest several hundreds of millions of dollars ,

Bruce Leadbetter, a co-partner of Christopher Bancroft in a Texas equity company, has been trying to help raise the necessary capital, but admits it is a tough gamble. And there are only a few days left to match the News Corp offer.

There have been reports that Murdoch is growing exasperated by the tardiness of the Bancroft family. But no-one seriously expects him to increase his bid.

Still in the picture, it is claimed, is a small group of wealthy California investors, headed by supermarket chain owner Ron Burkle, but it is doubted if their intervention is likely to be serious.

Originally advisors to Rupert Murdoch had believed that Christopher Bancroft would be in favour of the sale – and might even be a ‘swing vote’- but now he has said that selling the Wall Street Journal to Murdoch would endanger its independence and its journalistic integrity.

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