After all News Corp’s big talk how it wasn’t going to raise its price for Dow Jones & Co, tonight comes news that Rupert Murdoch is now talking about a sickening payoff to the Bancroft clan. That’s right, an out-and-out bribe in the neighborhood of $30+ million for the family holdouts to either forget about the principle of press independence or else forget about the idea of a richer offer. It’s not surprising, though it is disgusting, that Rupe is using greed as a way to appeal to those Bancrofts who don’t want to sell out to him. Gee, most people would be offended that Rupert is treating them like prostitutes — in effect, saying: we’ve already established that you’re a whore, now we’re just negotiating the price. But leave it to the Wall Street Journal to describe the News Corp bribe oh-so-delicately as “an unusual deal for the company to cover advisory fees for the Bancrofts in exchange for some holdout family members supporting the deal… The late-night proposal under discussion was for the Dow Jones board to create a fund to cover payments to firms advising Bancroft family members, including Merrill Lynch and the law firms Hemenway & Barnes and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. News Corp. would assume these liabilities if it bought Dow Jones. The fees could total at least $30 million, according to people familiar with the situation.
“Dow Jones is expected to argue that the Bancrofts deserve help with their advisory fees because their trusts are so complicated. Common shareholders don’t face many of these fees… The money would be paid only if at least one of two key holdout shareholders agreed to the deal: Christopher Bancroft (photo right) and a group of trusts managed by Denver law firm Holme Roberts & Owen. With at least one of these shareholders in agreement — more likely the Denver trusts — News Corp. would have enough support from the Bancroft family to seal the deal. Late Monday, however, neither of the shareholders had agreed.”
I’d say that, judging from the very principled stand he’s taken already, Christopher Bancroft looks the least likely to take the payoff. As for the other holdouts, the question is whether their conscience or their greed will be their guide.