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Today In The Dow of Rupert: Bancroft Family Values

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By now everyone knows that Rupert Murdoch must convince members of the Bancroft family to accept his offer if he is going to succeed in buying Dow Jones. But who are these Bancrofts? The New York Observer offers up a family tree of the clan that controls the fate of Dow Jones. It’s a reconstruction from wedding announcements, obituaries and some amount of real reporting (talking to sources and that sort of thing.) The Observer finds that the Bancrofts are far from a monolithic group of Boston Brahmins. In fact, “they are small magazine owners, teachers, power-boat racers, philanthropists, farmers, roller-derby enthusiasts, male models, lawyers, a cappella singers and Montel Williams fans,” the Observer’s Felix Gillette writes. And, as DealBook pointed out this morning, one family member—who is described as a roller derby enthusiast—poses topless on her MySpace page.

Although the Bancroft family members have been amazingly tight-lipped throughout this affair, the Observer tries to make some educated guesses as to which members might be won over by Rupert Murdoch. At Seeking Alpha, ValueCruncher concludes that the Bancrofts are “are playing hardball and waiting for Murdoch to increase his bid.” DealBreaker, however, spoke to a someone familiar with the Bancroft family who believes that many family members prize the ownership of the Wall Street Journal very highly and may be reluctant to give it up at any cost. “Without the paper, they are simply another rich family from Boston,” the source explained.
In a second piece on the deal (we told you the media was obsessed with this stuff), the Observer updates us on the letter writing campaign by Wall Street Journal reporters and editors aimed at convincing the Bancrofts to resist the News Corp bid. “So far, according to multiple Journal staffers, at least 60 reporters and editors have taken part,” Michael Calderone writes. The participating journalists include members of the backdating team from the Boston bureau, war correspondents, reporters and columnists from the Washington, DC bureau, staffers in San Francisco and Chicago, and “roughly 20” in New York.
Calderone doubts our story about a campaign specifically aimed at organizing Pulitzer Prize winners at the Journal. “While there is no letter written specifically on behalf of Pulitzer Prize winners—as reported on—according to more than a half-dozen Journal sources, a couple of recent winners have taken part in the general campaign to offer support for the family,” Calderone writes. Pheh. We’re confident our sources are better than his—and we’ve been told that there definitely was an effort specifically targeting the prize winners. If Calderone’s sources are denying the effort ever existed, it may be because it failed. “It's possible that the idea lost traction, or got shot down, and now they're telling Calderone ‘nothing to see here...’” a source inside Dow Jones told DealBreaker.
And, as we predicted yesterday, the finger wagging at Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger has begun. Steiger, you’ll remember, reportedly knew about the News Corp offer long before the story broke on CNBC but did not give the information to the paper’s reporters. The first three out of the Scolding Gate are Jon Fine writing in Business Week, Gary Weiss writing on his blog and Dean Starkman of CJR’s The Audit.
“I didn’t think this situation could get more complex, conflict-ridden, and unpleasant for the Journal’s newsroom. But Steiger’s move ensures it just did,” Fine writes.
Weiss’s take is a bit wittier. “Let's say you're a corporate raider and you don't want to be written about in the Wall Street Journal. How do you guarantee the Journal won't write about you?” Weiss writes. “Simple: just send a memo to the managing editor marked "personal and confidential.”
And Starkman just gets mean: “Well, we can stop wondering whether The Wall Street Journal would allow Rupert Murdoch to screw up its editorial judgment. That already happened”
None of the Scolders (perhaps with the exception of Weiss) seem to appreciate that Regulation FD may ban the type of disclosure to reporters that they would have liked to see from Steiger—an issue that the report in the New York Times completely ignored in its examination of the situation.
Next up: that Hong Kong couple who borrowed millions to buy $15 million of Dow Jones stock two weeks before the News Corp offer became public knowledge. Here’s a hint: the SEC doesn’t think these two just got lucky.