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Ex-Dow Jones CEO Would Get Fat on a Sale


The Bancrofts aren't the only Dow Jones institutions who will make a fortune if the deal goes ahead.

Take husband and wife team Peter Kann and Karen Elliott House, the legendary power couple at Dow Jones until their retirement in the past year. Kann was company chairman and chief executive. House rose to become publisher of the Journal.

Company filings show that the couple retired with as many as 944,750 options and contingent stock rights as of Dec. 31, 2006. The only problem? Nearly all of those options were worthless. They had exercise prices over $40, and in some cases over $50.

As the couple walked out the door, they must have thought those days had come and gone.

Today? Those options and stock rights, if they still hold them, will be worth $18 million.

A spokesman for Dow Jones declined to comment.

Take the money and run, folks. Hardly anyone believes Dow Jones will see a $60 share price again.

The giveaway fact? The dog that isn't barking: other newspaper shares.

Dow Jones is up 66% since the end of April, thanks to Murdoch's offer.

The New York Times (NYT) over the same period: 13%.

Gannett (GCI), publisher of USA Today, is even worse: 4%.

If Murdoch's offer marked the turning of the tide for newspaper stocks, you might expect a more enthusiastic reaction across the board. Wall Street hardly needs any prompting to jump on buyout rumors these days. Where is the private-equity talk?

But in the case of the newspapers, for better or worse, the Street clearly remains skeptical. Which makes Murdoch's $5 billion look more tempting.

And it doesn't bode well for those praying for a white knight to rescue the Journal from the man whom the British -- who have borne the brunt of Murdoch's journalism for 50 years -- have come to know as "the Dirty Digger."

In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Brett Arends doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Arends takes a critical look inside mutual funds and the personal finance industry in a twice-weekly column that ranges from investment advice for the general reader to the industry's latest scoop. Prior to joining in 2006, he worked for more than two years at the Boston Herald, where he revived the paper's well-known 'On State Street' finance column and was part of a team that won two SABEW awards in 2005. He had previously written for the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers in London, the magazine Private Eye, and for Global Agenda, the official magazine of the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland. Arends has also written a book on sports 'futures' betting.
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