The announcement last night that key Murdoch aide Robert J. Thomson, who had been charged with selecting the next top editor of The Wall Street Journal , had pulled a Dick Cheney and selected himself, will have many speculating about the future of the Journal.
But why speculate when the evidence is right on the front page of the Wall Street Journal? Today’s front page shows that the worst fears of Journal watchers–turning the Journal into the New York Post or even the Sun–haven’t come to pass. But there does seem to be a shift in focus. Newspapers communicate their image of what is important with their front pages. And the front page story is a prized win for reporters, conveying prestige among colleagues. A few months ago the news desk at the Journal was split between general news and business news, and business news seems to be losing some of its grip on the paper.
Take a look at what’s on the Journal’s front page. Today there are six stories. The top billing is giving to the story of Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor. The two other above the fold stories are about the quake in China and the US military. Below the fold we have a story about doping scandals in the Olympics. Of these, only the military story–they plan to use more alternate fuels–has a solid business angle. The rest are general news stories. Murdoch, who is said to favor more general news more prominently placed in the Journal, must be pleased.
The “What’s News” section continues to lead with business and finance news shorts. For now.
DealBreaker’s probing coverage into the search for a name of News Corp and NBC Universal’s online video JV is over. The two companies finally put that billion dollar brain-trust to work and came up with a name that is bound to draw viewers and admirers alike.
The winner – Hulu. Hulu. We’re serious. Hulu – the result of a five month search. Hulu – when you get punched while trying to say the word “Hula.” Hulu – the lieutenant commander of the Enterprise when everyone has a cold. Hulu – how George Bush mispronounces the first two syllables of the folksy word “hullabaloo.”
It took the ad wizards five months to “capture” the spontaneity and child-friendly assonance of hip techie names like Lala, Tinkie-Winkie, Joost, Wii, WiiWii, Yahoo, Belo, PooPoo, Lyondell Chemical Company and Fuchs Petrolub AG*.
Conclusion – Either the marketing team is borderline retarded or it took Rupert this long to shout “Hulu” out his window during a storm in which he thought the Nothing was consuming the remnants of Fantastica and the Ivory Tower in which the childlike empress resides (which has been our theory all along).
The new site is going to begin invitation-only beta testing in just two short months. It is expected to launch in 2130.
News Corp and NBC Universal name video site Hulu [Yahoo Finance]
*There is a company that makes lubricants called Fuchs (we had to reprint it to believe it)
Scandal: Murdoch Already Meddling With The Wall Street Journal
By Bess Levin
Foreign Media Mogul Already Messing With Journalists
Rupert Murdoch almost seems to be living up to the worst fears many had when made his bid for Dow Jones. Almost.
He’s been “flexing his muscles” by calling Wall Street Journal reporters, according to the Los Angeles Times. At least three reporters have had calls for him.
So what has prompted Murdoch’s calls? Does he want more favorable coverage of China? More “fair and balanced” Fox New Channel style reporting? A five-star review for the Simpson’s Movie?
Not quite. It seems that what Murdoch has been doing is attempting to keep the reporting staff of the Journal intact. The three reporters he’s called were considering leaving the Journal and Murdoch has asked them to stay.
“Murdoch, who has been vacationing in the Mediterranean in recent days, made the calls to the reporters from his yacht, the Rosehearty, named for the Murdoch family’s ancestral home in Scotland,” the LA Times reports.
Scandal upon scandal! He’s got a yacht! It’s in the Mediterranean. Where are the reporters’ yachts? Where is the Mediterranean for the reporters?
We’re not sure why this is anything but a positive story for the Journal, its editors, its reports and its readers. As we maintained from the beginning, Murdoch did not come to destroy the Journal but to own it. And now he’s personally reaching out to reporters in an attempt to keep it intact.
But there’s already a movement to make something scandalous of these moves. “Some journalists in the newsroom took the gesture as a sign of Murdoch’s commitment to keep the staff’s quality high. Others said it showed that Murdoch would take a hands-on approach in newsroom affairs despite a special committee established to keep him from interfering in coverage,” the LA Times reports.
Heaven forbid! The owner is trying to keep his top reporters! It’s a clear violation of the editorial integrity of the newspaper, which apparently now means letting the newsroom fall report.
So who are the put-upon reporters who got the call? The LA Times named them as Tara Parker-Pope, Kate Kelly and Henny Sender. The latter two are DealBreaker favorites, who have broken important stories in recent months. (Tara Parker-Pope is a Health writer.) We’re sure they’re in high demand, and it just seems demented to expect that Murdoch wouldn’t fight to keep them on board.
Our question: is this what they were talking about when they said Murdoch would “interfere” with the Journal? If so, bring it on!
Murdoch’s presence felt at Journal [Los Angeles Times]
Wall Street Journal reporters are in mourning today after the Bancroft family sold their souls to the News Corp Murdochracy for $5bn. “It’s sad. We held a wake. We stood around a pile of Journals and drank whiskey,” one writer said.
The Journal’s Managing editor, Marcus Brauchli (whose job, it should be noted, was secured during those interminable negotiations for “editorial independence”) tried to cheer up the troops this morning, sending around an internal memo with such heartrending reassurances as, “Our journalism defines the Journal,” and “It is too early to know how or even whether News Corp. ownership might alter priorities or structures at Dow Jones.”
For the time being, he’s probably right.
It’s finally pretty much almost over. Rupert Murdoch has secured enough Bancroft family shareholder votes to move forward with his $60-a-share, $5bn bid, one future News Corp holding reports.
One day after a Murdoch spokesperson said the deal was “highly unlikely,” the Denver branch of the Bancroft family, previously holding out for a higher offer, capitulated, giving News Corp at least 32% of the family vote. Nonetheless, one Bancroft family spokesperson said today, “Any suggestion that the process has been completed and/or that a particular level of support has been established is at this point premature.”
Both companies have board meetings this evening to formulate the take-over procedure. Dow Jones is trading up 7.04% to $57.50 today.
News Corp. Appears to Have Enough Votes to Clinch Deal [Wall Street Journal]
Murdoch Seen to Win Control of Dow Jones [NY Times]
This is a list of people who we respectfully submit are liars: CNBC’s David Faber, Thestreet.com’s Nat Worden, and Reuters. We believe these entities to be capital ‘L’ small ‘i’ small ‘a’ small ‘r’s because among them they share the distinction of having reported or re-reported this morning that there will be an official announcement of News Corp.’s Dow Jones victory tonight. Nothing personal, it’s just that we no longer believe the words coming out of the mouths of people who say anything—outright, implying, leading, lip synching—that even hints that this whole thing will be conclusively finished before hell freezes over. We WANT to believe them, we just can’t. Know anyone you’d like to add to our list? Send his/her name to tips at dealbreaker dot com.
In other news, MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan sent an open letter to Dow Jones shareholders detailing a new proposal (he’s done this before, several times) in which he would invest $600 million in cash and stock in three joint ventures with DJ. Greenspan says he’s received “interest” from five “credible” investor groups, though he would not disclose their names, and their profiles are set to private. Brad informed shareholders that he and his investors “can meet this week” in order to “firm investment commitments,” but starting next week things are going to be really tight for him, so if Dow Jones could really get back to him A-sap to nail something down that would be solid, just name the time and place, but seriously, get back to him soon, otherwise, who knows, he could be busy.
Dow Jones to Agree To Takeover by News Corp. [CNBC]
Dow Jones Deal Gets Closer [WSJ]
Dow Jones Soars As Deal Appears Near [thestreet.com]
News Corp., Dow Jones deal expected Tues [Reuters]
MySpace Co-Founder Makes Another Dow Jones Proposal [Bloomberg]
Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Dow Jones, once a sure thing, then “too close to call,” is now “highly unlikely” unless the Bancroft family increases its support of the deal by 5 p.m. today, the Wall Street Journal reports.
At the moment, 28% of Dow Jones’ voting power supports the deal, although it is unclear what percentage of Bancrofts voted affirmatively; 30% of the family needs to support Murdoch for his $5bn bid to go through. If this is not met, “News Corp likely wouldn’t take the deal to a full Dow Jones shareholder vote.”
After all the mud-slinging and Rupe’s cryptic commentary, this summer’s saga could come to a close tonight, in which case I will have no idea what to write about.
News Corp. Says It’s ‘Highly Unlikely’ To Buy Dow Jones at Current Count [Wall Street Journal]
Two days after the contentious Bancroft family powwow in Boston, the Denver branch of the family announced it will vote against News Corp’s $5bn bid for Dow Jones, insisting that Rupert Murdoch raise his offer by $120-240mn. The Denver trust controls 9.1% of the Bancroft’s voting power, but has been watched closely by News Corp and Dow Jones management. “The outcome has been seen as too close to call, although the Denver trust’s decision increases doubts about the deal’s prospects,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Colorado Bancrofts want a 10-20% premium on compensation for super-voting B class shareholders (The Bancrofts) although News Corp spokespeople insist that the Murdoch will not raise the bid and that a two tiered compensation is not tenable.
Key Bancroft Family Trust to Vote Against News Corp. Bid for Dow Jones [Wall Street Journal]
Geoffrey Raymond is at it again! Now he’s gone off and painted good ‘ol Rupert Murdoch in his classic style, but this time he’s asking for a little help from the viewer. Raymond is displaying his masterpiece outside of One World Financial Center so that Wall Street Journal employees and tourists alike can add their feelings about Rupes directly to the piece. WSJ employees in red marker, everyone else in black, with Raymond acting as a moderator. Barring rain, Raymond will be there until the end of the week and then the painting is going to the highest bidder. By highest bidder we mean any bidder, as the eBay auction starting at $3,500 has no bids to date with just three days left.
To one man walking by who refused to stop but still seemed interested, Raymond said defensively, “It’s not a picture of Rupert Murdoch, it’s a picture of a moment in the history of the Wall Street Journal.” Apparently this painting took only about two weeks to complete with Raymond rushing to finish before any official announcement about the fate of Dow Jones is announced. His painting of the $Honey is still a work in progress, he told DealBreaker — Raymond hasn’t yet figured out the finishing touch.
After the jump we bring you some pictures of the painting’s set up on Liberty Street.
The Annotated Murdoch [eBay]
A Bancroft wrangle over NewsCorp’s bid for Dow Jones ended in stalemate yesterday after emotional harangues from opposing factions, the Wall Street Journal reports. The meeting, in the Boston Hilton was so grueling that, “after four hours of discussion, family members were so hungry that they made do with a tray of stale danishes.”
Interviews with more than a dozen family members, outside advisers, lawyers and others involved in the process suggest that the outcome remains too close to call. What has seemed to many analysts like a logical move — accepting a $60-a-share bid for a company whose shares previously had been trading in the mid-30s — is still in question amid the deep emotions the bid has stirred. Participants said more doubts about a News Corp. deal were apparent at the end of the six-hour session than at the beginning.
On several occasions Bancrofts “held back tears” as they extolled the merits of an independent editorial board. One prominent Rupe resister, Jane Cox MacElree, seemed even to make the distressing “Daniel-Pearle-would-have-wanted-it-this-way” argument. Another opposing force claimed that the company was worth more than Murdoch’s offer of $60-a-share and that the family shouldn’t accept anything below $66.
Although only 30% of the Bancrofts’ voting power must endorse Murdoch’s proposal for it to go through, investors are becoming increasingly unsure that the deal is a sure thing, Dow stock is currently trading at $54.01, down from as high as $61.20 in June.
It looks like the interminable saga will continue for now, maybe even into August.
Relative Uncertainty [Wall Street Journal]
Off to a slow start here this morning because of the rain in New York City. We had to wait for our interwebs to dry out. (Just like Alphaville, the deal blog at Financial Times, which has reportedly had trouble due to the flooding in England. Unless that’s just Brit-speak for, uhm, one too many pints on Sunday night.)
But it’s back to business now. And by “business” we mean, of course, the saga of Rupert Murdoch, the Bancroft family and the Wall Street Journal.
One of the things we’re sure has been absolutely frustrating to anyone who has been following the endless tape of this story has been the complete lack of information about which members of the Bancroft family and its representatives control exactly which shares and which percentage of the votes. It was only at the middle of last week that we learned that Michael Elefante, the partner at the Boston law firm Hemenway & Barnes who is a trustee for two of the largest trusts holding shares for the family, can deliver a little less than half of the family’s 64% voting stake. Let’s call that 30% of the total voting power of the company.
Today the New York Times reports that the leader of the opposition to Murdoch within the family, Christopher Bancroft, controls around 14.5 percent of the total Dow Jones shareholder vote as of January. And his cousin, Jane Cox MacElree, is running around with 14.8 percent. (Apparently no-one else has more than 4.3%.) But you have to read a bit between the lines of the Times—too often the stuff we really want to know apparently isn’t “fit to print”—to understand why they spend so much time talking about Chris and so little talking about Jane. It’s because Jane isn’t really involved with the Dow Jones stuff, and leaves the decision making to Chris. So you can count her shares as shares controlled by Chris. That gives him around a little more than 30% of the voting power of the company, or about what Elephante controls. To that you can add the “Never Murdoch” shares controlled by the Ottaway family to come up with a 36% opposed number.
In short, going into today’s big Boston Bancroft powwow, Murdoch is a bit behind. Probably at least 36% of the voting power of Dow Jones opposes him. He’s got 30% on his side. But Murdoch has a secret weapon: the 30% or so of the voting power vesting in shares that were once held by the general public and are now held by stock arbitrageurs, the Bancrofts, the Ottaways and a few people who aren’t paying any attention. Most of those shares will vote his way. To play it safe, let’s put that pro-Murdoch number at around 25%.
Which gives Murdoch right around 55% of the voting power of the company. Since he only needs 51%, that means he wins. But it’s close. And since we’ve been guestimating at a few of the crucial numbers, it’s possible that it’s even closer than this. If the numbers are shifted a couple points in the only direction—say, Elefante only has around 28% of the vote in his pocket and only 22% votes held by common shareholders go for Murdoch, he’s down to a losing 50%.
Which leaves us at the exciting possibility that we may be entering the rare situation where a very few amount of votes—perhaps those held by a small shareholder who doesn’t even remember he has the shares in his account (or his attic)—could swing the voting. In short, the Bancrofts may be meeting in Boston in 2008. But the voting may well be in Florida, 2000 territory.
A Family Meets Today to Hear the Complexities of a Bid for Dow Jones [New York Times]
Bancrofts To Consider Murdoch Bid, ‘Close Vote’ Predicted [New York Sun]
Know Your Bancrofts [New York Magazine]