An SEC filing for the pending 5.6 billion purchase of Dow Jones & Co. by News Corporation confirmed what we had all guessed – that no one else even submitted a formal bid when faced with the 60 bucks per share offer on the table. But the startling revelation was that one tire kicker was Gazprom, the Russian gas and oil conglomerate that also controls a big chunk of Russian media.
Friday’s SEC filing was required to provide Dow Jones shareholders with details of management’s efforts to maximize the payoff after getting the takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch at News Corporation. Although none of the parties approached are identified by name, the narrative says 21 potential buyers were contacted, but that not one ever got to the point of making a formal bid to challenge Murdoch. The report appears to confirm that Blackstone Group, a private equity group, took a look at Dow Jones. But the shock was the mention of "an international oil and gas company," which observers now believe was Gazprom. The company is widely viewed as being controlled by cronies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Through various financial maneuvers, it has succeeded in seizing control of many major media assets in Russian and eliminated most news coverage of Putin opponents.
RBR/TVBR observation: Acquiring control of the Wall Street Journal and the financial market data services of Dow Jones would certainly have made Gazprom an international media power, but might also have sent clients fleeing in terror. For that matter, can you imagine the reaction from Dow Jones Newswires and Wall Street Journal staffers if this had come down to a bidding war between Murdoch and Putin’s allies? It would have been hilarious to see them embracing Murdoch as their potential savior, rather than a pariah!