My belated print contribution to the great media cud-chewing over Rupert Murdoch’s Dow Jones bid is in the new Time (with Mitt Romney on the cover) and here. It begins:
In 1902, Boston boardinghouse owner Jessie Barron bought Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, with a down payment of $2,500. She did this at the behest of her longtime boarder and not-so-longtime second husband, financial writer Clarence Barron. But Mrs. Barron really was the owner, and when she died in 1918, her majority share passed to her daughter by her first marriage, Jane Bancroft.
The Bancrofts have held a controlling stake in Dow Jones ever since. Jane’s husband Hugh Bancroft was company president for a time, but since his death in 1933, the family has mostly kept its hands off. “I want you to do what’s best for the company,” Jane reportedly told her husband’s successor, reporter turned manager Casey Hogate. “Don’t you and the boys worry about dividends.” The modern, globe-spanning Journal was thus built by “the boys” from the newsroom while the Bancrofts stood benignly by (though they did, as the Journal returned to health after the Depression, eventually start caring about dividends).
Now, as you have surely heard, the three dozen cousins who have a hand in voting the shares inherited from Jessie Barron face a momentous decision. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has offered to buy them out at a staggeringly high price–$60 a share, or 75% higher than the market was valuing Dow Jones before the offer. The Bancrofts’ initial answer was no, but there is disagreement within the family. If Murdoch ups his bid, anything could happen–and the current betting on Wall Street is that something will.
With that, yet another leading family would depart an American news business once dominated by such clans. Read more.
For those who have been following the Murdoch saga closely, there won’t be a whole lot that’s new here. (For that, check out my Wednesday post on the subject.) But Time is supposed to be mostly for people who don’t read Romenesko, right?