Dow Jones Accepts Tentative Bid by News Corp.

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News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch came a step closer to realizing his dream of owning TheWall Street Journal after Dow Jones’ board of directors said it reached a tentative agreement to sell the company, the paper reported Tuesday.

Murdoch sent tongues wagging in May when he launched a $5 billion, $60-per-share bid for Dow Jones, parent of the Journal. The next several weeks were dominated by reports that the company’s controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, were searching for competing bidders and Murdoch’s growing frustration with the negotiations.

Last week, at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, Murdoch’s frustration appeared to reach its zenith when he complained to AP that the Bancrofts “keep changing their minds.”

While Murdoch may have a tentative agreement with Dow Jones’ board of directors -- the proposal was to be put before the full board of directors Tuesday evening -- the deal is by no means a slam dunk. The Bancrofts, who control about 64% of the Dow Jones vote, are still split among younger family members who are open to a deal and others who are concerned that the paper’s journalistic integrity would be compromised by News Corp. ownership.

According to the Journal report, the Bancroft family’s lead trustee, Michael Elefante, will present the News Corp. deal to the entire family Thursday at a regularly scheduled meeting. Elefante is expected to give the family several days to make a decision, suggesting that one could be made sometime next week.

Gaining control of the Journal would give instant credibility to News Corp.’s fledgling cable business channel, Fox Business Network, which is slated to launch Oct. 15 in about 30 million homes. Many analysts believe that News Corp.’s announcement last week of the launch date for FBN was in part a signal to the Bancrofts that it could walk away from the Dow Jones deal.

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