No quick decision from the Bancrofts


Not that anyone expected one. Reports of the family meeting on Monday indicate that the Bancrofts are deeply divided over whether or not to sell Dow Jones & Co. to Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation for five billion bucks – a large chunk of which would go to members of the family that has controlled the company for 100 years. As expected, the four family representatives on the Dow Jones board were split. Christopher Bancroft and cousin Leslie Hill reportedly spoke out against a sale.

Another cousin, Elizabeth Steele, and Michael Elefante, a lawyer for some of the family trusts, each spoke in favor. Despite the split opinions, the New York Times quoted Christopher Bancroft as saying that the meeting was "not acrimonious at all."

The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Dow Jones, reported that new opposition came from Jane MacElree, who had been seen as a swing vote, although some of her children are in the pro-sale camp. The WSJ says only one of the three main branches of the family appears to solidly support a sale. That branch, the Cooks, however, is the largest, with 23% of the voting power at Dow Jones. In all, the various Bancroft heirs hold 64% of the company's voting power.

SmartMedia observation: What happens next? Over the next few days the various Bancrofts will tell the family lawyers where they stand on the sale and the lawyers will tally up the yeas and nays. It seems unlikely that the entire family will agree to pledge the entire 64% stake in support of the deal, as Murdoch has requested. Then it comes down to counting the votes. If it appears that enough Bancrofts support the sale that they and a majority of the non-Bancroft votes would be enough to carry the day, the directors will likely call a special shareholders meeting to vote on the sale. Then it comes down to News Corporation beating the bushes for every possible vote to ensure approval. It could be a close vote.