Two members of the Ottaway family, a minority partner in Dow Jones & Co., released scathing statements yesterday, saying a takeover by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. would ruin Dow Jones and its crown jewel, the
Wall Street Journal
The controlling Bancroft family said last week that family members representing 52 percent of shareholder votes opposed Murdoch's $60-a-share bid, a steep premium for a stock that had recently traded around $36.
But their statement was vague, leaving it unclear whether family members objected to the price, to Murdoch or to a sale on any terms.
The Ottaways' statements left no such ambiguity, questioning the journalism and the ethics of Murdoch and of News Corp. properties like Fox News Channel and the New York Post, known for their right-wing political bent and racy tone.
James H. Ottaway Jr., a trustee for most of the family shares and formerly a longtime Dow Jones executive and board member, said, "Dow Jones has no good reason to be sold to anyone." And the reputation of the Journal and Dow Jones for serious, accurate and objective work, he said, "would be damaged if Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. take over Dow Jones."
"He has for a long time expressed his personal, political and business biases through his newspapers and television channels," Ottaway said. The Post "regularly runs biased news stories and headlines supporting his friends, political candidates and public policies, and attacks people he personally opposes," while at Fox News, "one man's political opinions have become the editorial and news policy."
The right answer to News Corp.'s bid, Ottaway added, is that "Dow Jones is not for sale, at any price, to Rupert Murdoch."
Attempts to reach a News Corp. spokesman yesterday were unsuccessful.
Murdoch wants the Journal in part to bolster the cable business channel he intends to start this year, in competition with CNBC. He said in an interview early this year with the Journal that CNBC was too eager to report on scandals, and that his channel would take a more positive view of business.
That approach is disturbing, said James W. Ottaway, a son of James H. Ottaway Jr., who released a statement yesterday.
"As an investor, I would be very concerned to live in an era of making investment decisions based on the Murdoch-filtered business information," he said. "As a citizen, I would be afraid to live in a world where news is solely entertainment, and there is an agenda behind every story I read, watch or hear." *