NEW YORK - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. made an unsolicited $5 billion takeover offer for Dow Jones & Co. Inc., but the family that controls Dow Jones said yesterday that it would oppose the deal.
The company, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, confirmed yesterday that it had received the offer of $60 a share. The announcement sent Dow Jones' stock, which has languished in the mid-$30s for the last year, zooming 55 percent, or $19.87, to close at $56.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The news lifted the shares of other newspaper publishers.
Buying the Journal, the second-biggest U.S. newspaper by circulation, the wsj.com Web site, Dow Jones Newswires and Barron's magazine would satisfy Murdoch's long-expressed desire to own the 125-year-old company. The deal would blend Dow Jones' assets with Murdoch's empire of 170 newspapers, stretching from Sydney to New York to London, and its Fox News cable network.
"This is a typical Rupert move," said Lawrence J. Haverty Jr., associate portfolio manager at Gamco Investors Inc., of Rye, N.Y. "It's a very big idea as opposed to a very small idea. This is not a newspaper, Dow Jones. This is a financial electronic collection and dissemination system of news."
The largest U.S. newspaper by circulation is USA Today.
In its own statement yesterday, News Corp. described the offer as "friendly" and said the bid might be in cash or a combination of cash and shares.
However, Dow Jones said the Bancroft family intended to vote its shares, representing slightly more than 50 percent of the voting power in the company, against the deal.
That put the ball back in Murdoch's court, leaving open the possibility that he could raise his offer, or that other bidders could emerge.
The union representing Dow Jones employees, the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, was harshly critical of the prospect of being owned by Murdoch.
"Mr. Murdoch has shown a willingness to crush quality and independence, and there is no reason to think he would handle Dow Jones or the Journal any differently," the union said. "Despite our differences of opinion with current management, we strongly encourage the Bancrofts to continue to stand up for the institution's independence, and to walk away from this offer."
Like those of other newspaper publishers, Dow Jones' shares have been beaten down in the last few years amid sluggish advertising and fast-changing media-consumption habits, as more readers and advertising dollars move to the Internet.
That has helped spawn an unprecedented level of acquisition activity.
In April, Tribune Co. agreed to go private in an $8 billion deal led by real estate investor Sam Zell, and last year the McClatchy Co. acquired what was then the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, Knight Ridder Inc., after a shareholder revolt.
Also, the New York Times Co., which like Dow Jones and several other newspaper companies is controlled by a family through a special class of shares, is facing investor unrest over its own sluggish financial performance.
Yesterday, shares of McClatchy gained 58 cents to close at $29.48 on the NYSE. Shares of Washington Post Co., another publisher with two classes of shares, gained $21.30 to close at $765.30 on the NYSE. New York Times stock gained $1.18 to finish at $24.58 on the NYSE. Gannett Co. Inc. rose $1.11, to $58.17, on the NYSE.
News Corp. began in the newspaper business in Australia and still owns many papers, including the Sun tabloid in England, the Times of London, and the New York Post.
The company is now a major global media conglomerate and owns Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Channel, MySpace.com, the Twentieth Century Fox studio, and satellite broadcasters in Europe and Asia.
Dow Jones & Co. Inc., at a glance.
Headquarters: New York.
Business: Financial-news publishing, including the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Dow Jones Newswire, MarketWatch.com, and the Dow Jones industrial, transportation and utility indexes.
Controlling family: The Bancrofts.
Founders: Charles Dow, Edward Jones and Charles Bergstresser.
SOURCES: Dow Jones & Co. Inc., Bloomberg News, Yahoo