Murdoch and Bancroft Clans Meet; Talks Said to Be 'Constructive'

05 June 2007

NEW YORK: Among the many talents of media Moloch Rupert Murdoch is that of playing the right card at the right time. And at Monday's key meeting with Dow Jones' controlling Bancroft clan, the mogul did just that.

He shrewdly played the 'Happy Families' card - importing son James across the Atlantic from the UK where he runs pop's satellite monopoly BSkyB.

Cynical observers believe James (34) has been cast in the role of youthful bridge-builder between the two clans - symbolizing a future of familial milk and honey should poppa succeed in his bid for Dow Jones and its prize asset, The Wall Street Journal.

The meeting, which lasted over four hours, reportedly discussed issues of journalistic independence. It also reviewed NewsCorp's much-criticized coverage of Chinese matters and its own business activities in that nation.

Another item topping the agenda was the modus operandi of any editorial board set up to oversee Dow Jones should the family agree to sell its controlling interest.

The Bancrofts, who between them control 64% of Dow's voting shares, treated the Murdochs to a presentation outlining their credo of independence and integrity for Dow Jones and the WSJ, according to a mole in the latter's camp.

The family also raised questions about The Times of London and its sibling Sunday Times, controversially acquired by Murdoch in 1981 on condition that he granted the twin papers editorial independence via an independent board.

UK critics have dismissed that board as mere window-dressing, complaining that it failed to stop Murdoch from interfering with the papers and dismissing non-compliant editors - such as the highly respected Harold Evans.

On leaving the meeting, Murdoch senior described it as "constructive", while a Bancroft family spokesman harmonized: "The parties had a constructive dialogue and have gone back to consider our positions."

Nothing as vulgar as price or terms was on the meeting agenda, according to insiders.

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