… On the point of this journalistic tradition of strict separation between political opinions and news, the potential conflicts would be amusing—funny if they weren’t so serious. Imagine, in 2001 (Rupert Murdoch’s younger son) James Murdoch gave a speech attacking the Western media for being too critical of the Chinese communist government and its human rights violations, and he criticized the Falun Gong as an “apocalyptic cult.” (Around the same time) WSJ reporters were reporting the Chinese communist government was murdering the Falun Gong. The paper won got a Pulitzer Prize for it; It was a fantastic, detailed piece of reporting. What is Murdoch going to do with that kind of thing? For years, the editorial page has been critical of the Chinese communist human rights violations and has not gone along with the “business as usual” of American businesses that want get in there and do business at any price. The editorial page has been critical of Yahoo, Google, and others for censoring their pages. There’s a direct conflict of interest. It’s hard to imagine how it’s all going to fit together.
After the family said “we can see some reasonable combination for partnership,” I made a public statement then that said Dow Jones shareholders are blind to historical facts if we ignore Murdoch’s past easy promises, which he did not keep to the British government and editors of the Times of London and Sunday Times before he purchased them, or to the liberal New York Post. (As I said in the statement:) “It’s hard to imagine Rupert Murdoch publishing the New York Post in midtown Manhattan with all of his personal and political biases and business interests reflected every day, while publishing the WSJ in downtown Manhattan with no interference whatsoever in its editorial positions or news coverage….”
TA: Well, we’re coming to the moment of truth where it comes down to a binary decision—yes or no—the Bancrofts and the rest of the shareholders are probably going to be receiving a proposal. Say they all vote “no,” what does the Dow Jones do? What are the alternatives to News Corp.?
JO: One fear Murdoch is playing on is that he walks away and the stock drops. My answer is of course it will. It was at $36 before he dropped by with an offer, and it would go back to $36 to $40…My own financial advisers tell me that the stock would keep some of its premium because what used to be a speculative premium has now been proven in the real world: Somebody thinks this brand-name company is worth a lot more (than the stock market had valued it before the offer)…Also, the idea that the Bancrofts would never sell has been proven wrong. So I’m not worried about the stock going to $5 if Murdoch goes away; it would go down for sure, but I don’t think as much as that. If Murdoch withdraws, you’ve got this Greenspan offer to invest (5) in the company, buy out the unhappy shareholders, put some cash in. So I don’t think it’s a disaster if the company goes back where it started… I think it’s a viable company…It wasn’t for sale before; It doesn’t have to be now.
Damage has been done though. Damage has been done. There are going to be great questions about the management people who seemed to have been open to, if not anxious for, a Murdoch takeover. Some Bancroft family members are very upset with (current Dow Jones CEO) Rich Zannino…
TA: Are you?