General Electric is in talks with Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times to present an opposing bid to News Corp.'s offer for Dow Jones. The attempt to thwart Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Wall Street Journal may involve "the Bancroft family retaining a 20 per cent stake in Dow Jones, with the remainder held by Pearson and GE, thus continuing the family's involvement with a company the family has controlled for more than a century." While the bid seems unlikely (Murdoch's $5 billion offer is more than a third of Pearson's total market capitalization), it makes strategic sense: G.E. owns CNBC, which will face a strong challenge from News Corp.'s imminent Fox News Channel, and a resurgent WSJ can only hurt the FT.
The Journal notes that
The structure under discussion is similar in some ways to the one used by GE to gain control of Universal Studios in 2004. In that deal, GE contributed the NBC television network and several cable channels, such as MSNBC and CNBC, to a joint venture it formed with Vivendi Universal SA, owner of the Universal film studio and a group of cable channels. Though it put no cash into the deal, GE ended up with an 80% stake, giving it control of a broader series of media businesses at relatively low cost. In the Vivendi case, GE's offer won out against a more cash-rich deal proposed by a group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr.but points out that Pearson" has been under pressure to concentrate on its profitable textbook and education businesses ... The FT generated just 5% of Pearson's $8.7 billion in revenue last year."
In a related story, Business Week looks at James Murdoch, currently assumed to be Rupert's heir apparent, should Murdoch ever die. Which also seems unlikely.