Could Rupert Murdoch's takeover bid for Dow Jones actually fail? That's the sense you get reading this morning's Wall Street Journal, which reports that divisions in the Bancroft family have hardened to the point where recalcitrant Bancrofts are invoking dead relatives (and dead Journal journalists) to argue against the sale. At Monday's meeting in Boston, Jane Cox MacElree, whose branch of the family controls 15% of Dow Jones' voting stock, "cited Daniel Pearl's death at the hands of kidnappers in 2002 in voicing her opposition to a bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to buy Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Journal, according to participants." How dramatic.
The article has some great color from the meeting, as the clearly anguished family ponders whether or not to cash in on its prized asset, but while it suggests that the outcome "remains too close to call," it also notes that "it will still be difficult to block the transaction, given that it would take only a few players to deliver a deal to Mr. Murdoch."
The market has become increasingly jittery over whether Mr Murdoch will prevail, yesterday pushing Dow Jones shares down 2.6pc to $53.27 on fears that News Corp could yet be thwarted. The Dow Jones board backs the offer.
"The market is putting a higher and higher probability that the deal is not going down," said Robert Willis, chief investment officer of Georgia-based Willis Investment Counsel. Christopher Bancroft, an investment banker, has led the opponents to the deal, who feel Mr Murdoch could undermine editorial independence. Other Bancroft family members back News Corp's offer, aware that if Mr Murdoch is rebuffed, Dow Jones shares are likely to collapse.
And what of that editorial independence? The Observer takes a look at the committee established to protect the Journal's integrity. Seems that folks at the paper are, shockingly, less than thrilled with the names put forth as its inaugural members.
There was the attorney Theodore Olson, who had served in the Reagan administration and later in the George W. Bush administration (after successfully representing him in Bush v. Gore). There was the conservative writer Thomas Bray, former Tribune president Jack Fuller, and current M.I.T. president Susan Hockfield.
"I have no indication that any of them would know what goes into Page 1," said one Journal staffer, who added the board should have included "people who really understand news coverage."
"To put Ted Olson on the board," said another Journal staffer, "everyone in the newsroom was like, 'What the fuck!'"
We hear you, Journal staffer. We've been saying that for weeks now.