In his latest effort to win over the controlling shareholders at
CEO Rupert Murdoch didn't raise his $5 billion bid for the venerable publisher, but he did promise measures to protect its editorial independence.
Murdoch, whose editorial practices have been widely criticized in the wake of his offer to buy Dow Jones, sent a letter to members of the Bancroft family on Monday promising to bring one of them onto News Corp.'s board of directors if his offer is accepted. He also vowed to establish an independent editorial board to ensure the editorial integrity of Dow Jones' flagship newspaper,
The Wall Street Journal
, and its other news-gathering operations.
"Please let me assure you that, first and foremost, I am a newspaper man," Murdoch said in the letter, which was made public by
. "I don't apologize for the fact that I have always had strong opinions and strong ideas about newspapers; but I have also always respected the independence and integrity of the news organizations with which I am associated."
He went on to say that "any interference -- or even hint of interference --
with Dow Jones' journalistic independence and integrity would break the trust that exists between the paper and its readers, something I am unwilling to countenance."
The letter comes as part of Murdoch's efforts to ingratiate himself to the family whose ancestors built Dow Jones into perhaps the most influential publisher of business and financial news in the world. While his $60-a-share bid for the company amounts to a whopping 67% premium to the price at which Dow Jones' stock traded before the offer became public, the company has refused to take action on the offer, citing a majority of opposition from the Bancroft family.
The Bancrofts control Dow Jones through a dual-class share structure that places the bulk of the company's voting rights in their control.
reported that 80% of family-owned shares were in hands opposing taking action on the offer. That represents 52% of the company's overall voting power.
The Ottaway family, which acquired 6.2% of the company's controlling shares when it sold its chain of community newspapers to Dow Jones in 1970, has also expressed strong opposition to selling the company to News Corp. That raises the level of opposition to at least 58% of the voting power.
Meanwhile, Murdoch has focused on the minority of family members that apparently support a deal or at least a negotiation. If he can win over several more family members, that minority could quickly become a majority, clearing the way for a deal that Wall Street would relish.
While some of the Bancrofts are reportedly opposed to selling Dow Jones to anyone, particular concerns have been raised about Murdoch and his media empire, due to a perceived bias at some of its news operations, like
New York Post
. Sharp criticism has been offered by the Ottaways, while support for the Bancrofts' opposition to Murdoch was voiced last week by Dow Jones' former chairman and CEO, Peter Kann.
The Bancroft family is reportedly meeting to discuss Murdoch's offer.
"I would welcome an opportunity to meet with members of the family, the board, management and the newsroom to review our proposal in further detail," Murdoch said.
Shares of Dow Jones closed Monday's session up 1.2% at $53.77. News Corp. closed 1% higher at $23.53.