Rupert Murdoch: Hands Off China

We're at the epistolary stage of the Dow Jones story: Rupert Murdoch sent a letter to members of the Bancroft family offering them "a seat on News Corp.'s board and pledging to safeguard the editorial integrity of The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones editorial properties." The letter promoted Murdoch as a family man (well, he does have three) with a passion for newspapers. The Bancrofts—about 80 per cent of whom "rejected Mr Murdoch's $60-per-share bid two weeks ago"—seem unimpressed, although there remains a faction that wants to meet with him. The Guardian notes that Murdoch's offer to set up an independent board for the Journal mirrors a promise he made when he purchased the Times of London years ago; that board since "has long been disbanded."

The New York Times reports that "a group of Journal reporters based in China urged the Bancroft family in a letter to reject Mr. Murdoch's bid." The letter can be found here. It echoes concerns voiced by James H. Ottaway, Jr., whose family owns about six per cent of Dow Jones. Times of London editor Robert Thomson—expected to have an advisory position on the Journal should Murdoch's bid succeed—responded with a letter of his own which called the claim "a challenge to the integrity of the journalists at The Times and to me personally."

Former Times Hong Kong correspondent Jonathan Mirsky claims that "When Murdoch wants to interfere, he will. If there's supposed to be a China wall [separating corporate executives from editorial decisions], he'll ignore it." There's precedent: Flashback to this 2006 interview with former Page Sixer and champion liver-damager Ian Spiegelman. In response to a question about which Murdoch friends the gossip gang was ordered to "dance around or flatter," Spiegelman said, "The People's Republic of China. One time I was looking into an item about a Chinese diplomat and a strip club when word came from somewhere up above that China had carte blanche. The message I got was more or less, "If you mention Chinese, you'd better be ordering lunch." (Also Nicole Kidman, but we imagine that will be less of an issue for the Journal.)

Previously: Rupert Murdoch Loves Dow Jones, Whitefish