No 'Competitive Alternatives' to Murdoch Bid, Claims Dow Jones

11 September 2007

NEW YORK: May Day is an occasion for worldwide celebrations, among them Beltane and other pagan cavortings, the Festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Roman Catholic countries, and International Workers' Day, a leftist jamboree.

But May Day 2007 will hereon be remembered in gloom - not only by Dow Jones' middle management and staff - but also by believers in an independent free press.

For it was on that date that Rupert Murdoch made his bolt-from-the-blue play for Dow and its flagship Wall Street Journal.

In the three months that have since elapsed, not a single "competitive alternative proposal" arrived in Dow's in-tray. Although there were "potential transaction partners" aplenty, twenty-one in all, none were of sufficient substance to put to shareholders.

Or so claims Dow and its controlling Bancroft family in a filing lodged last week [perhaps in extenuation of their sellout of the most respected brand in business publishing].

The filing didn't identify the companies that mooted a rival bid, although it alludes to two previously unreported parties who made contact with Dow.

Insiders identify the dabbling duo as private equity firm Blackstone Group and Russian energy giant OAO Gazprom. Success by the latter would truly have hurled the cat among Wall Street's pigeons!

That the preternaturally shrewd Murdoch had an unimpeded run at his quarry is not surprising given his lavish offer of $60 a share - at the time of the bid a 66% premium over DJ's stock price.

Even the cash-rich private equity firms [then, if not now] baulked at matching that kind of bounty

The Dow filing marks the countdown for a final vote by stockholders at a meeting that could be as early as next month. Given the Bancroft family's acceptance, few expect there to be any surprises.

But in the meantime, observers predict, Murdoch will keep his head well below the parapet to avoid drawing fire on other issues.

  • WSJ Shakeup
    On Monday the WSJ briefed staffers on the latest ad sales shakeup. It creates a hybrid force of category experts, media specialists and regional managers with responsibilities across all media.

    Effective today (Tuesday): "Regional sales managers will assume responsibility for working across both print and digital properties of the brand; the sales representatives who report to them will remain specialists in print or digital."

    The marketing and business development department will continue the paper's recent shift to allotting expertise to different advertiser categories. Five positions will disappear as a result.

    New chief revenue officer Michael Rooney, responsible for strategy, concedes that not all media companies can integrate print and digital sales without experimentation - even occasional failure.

    He insists, however, that the WSJ is well placed to succeed.

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