Bancroft Heiress Divebombs Murdoch Bid

02 July 2007

NEW YORK: Dow Jones board director Leslie Hill, a retired American Airlines pilot and a feisty member of the firm's controlling Bancroft family, last week spent much of her time circling America's investment airlanes in a bid to detect credible takeover alternatives.

Hill (53), although an early supporter of News Corporation's $5 billion (€3.7bn; £2.49bn) bid, has undergone a change of heart in past weeks and is said to be energetically courting counter-bids.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (whose loss of editorial integrity, should it fall into the hands of Clan Murdoch, is the Bancroft family's main concern), Hill is given to the use of flying analogies when discussing the Dow Jones' options.

"If you are flying into an airport, you always have two backup airports in your flight plan," she reportedly told her boardroom colleagues. "That's what Dow Jones needs: a backup plan."

In her pursuit of such a plan, she is pressing DJ management to meet with PR and advertising executive Brian Tierney who in 2006 led a private equity consortium that bought two Philadelphia newspapers for $515 million.

She has also urged a hearing for MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, who is eager to buy a 25% stake in Dow Jones.

It was Hill too who drafted the Bancrofts' statement of principles to protect the WSJ's editorial integrity - although word from within DJ's inner sanctum is that negotiations with NewsCorp on this front have resulted in a severely neutered undertaking.

Some family members support Hill's efforts and are angered that the board has not matched her commitment: "It's great that Leslie is trying to do this. But it's pretty sophisticated stuff. You would think that the company would have a dedicated strong group with missionary zeal working on it."

And she is not the only family member eager to consider alternatives to the Murdoch bid. "It's no secret that there are folks in the family who are interested in coming up with an arrangement that doesn't involve Murdoch," says a third cousin twice removed.

Ms Hill has neither confirmed nor denied these reports.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff