NEW YORK - The Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones & Co. Inc., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, says it doesn't want to sell the company to Rupert Murdoch at $60 a share. But would the family sell at a higher price, or to someone else?
Those are the questions that raced through Wall Street and the newspaper industry yesterday, a day after Murdoch announced his unsolicited bid, only to have it spurned hours later.
Even though the Bancrofts said Tuesday after markets closed that they would quash the deal - which they have the power to do because they control the company's shareholder vote through a special class of shares - investors were still holding out hope that some kind of deal would emerge.
Dow Jones shares gave up hardly any ground yesterday, shedding just 20 cents to $56.00, still far above their close of $36.33 Monday, the day before the news of the offer, and not far off the $60-a-share proposal that Murdoch's News Corp. media conglomerate made.
The Bancrofts have been unwilling to sell in the past, and they reportedly rebuffed an overture in 2002 from the Sulzberger family, which controls the New York Times Co. Many other companies have been believed to have an interest in acquiring Dow Jones as well.
But at $60 a share, a premium of more than 65 percent over Dow Jones' recent stock price, many Wall Street analysts feel Murdoch's offer is too compelling to pass up - and could lead to others considering their own bids.
Murdoch is attracted to Dow Jones for the prestige and power that would come with owning the Wall Street Journal, one of the largest papers in the country and by far the most influential in the U.S. business world.
Dow Jones also holds a special appeal to Murdoch because his News Corp. conglomerate is about to launch a business news cable channel. The company already owns Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcasting network, MySpace.com, and the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio.
The new business channel would benefit greatly from the expertise and strong brand name of the Journal and Dow Jones' other holdings, including Dow Jones Newswires, Barron's, and its part-ownership of SmartMoney magazine. Dow Jones has a content-sharing deal that goes through 2012 with General Electric Co.'s CNBC, which would rival the new business channel.
Most of the many names usually mentioned as potentially interested in acquiring Dow Jones were silent yesterday about their intentions.
Gannett Co. Inc., the largest newspaper company in the country and publisher of USA Today - the only newspaper with higher circulation than the Wall Street Journal - declined to comment, as did the Washington Post Co.
Judith Czelusniak, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg L.P., a major supplier of financial news, said that company would not be interested, but she declined to elaborate.
An assistant to billionaire Warren Buffett said he was not doing any interviews ahead of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s annual shareholder meeting Saturday.
However, Buffett, who owns the Buffalo News, warned in his latest annual shareholder letter that "fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry," raising doubts about whether he would step up.