Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Crafty Murdoch Tees Up Dow Jones Sale

Media titan Rupert Murdoch just put Dow Jones & Co. up for sale. And he doesn't even own it.
But he did the next best thing today by offering $5 billion to acquire the owner of the Wall Street Journal, Barron's and other business publications and related Internet sites.
In making the unsoliciated offer, that's nearly a 67 percent premium over Dow Jones current share price, Murdoch is forcing that company's owners into a corner. They can take his offer or seek other buyers. But, saying no is not a viable option, unless the company's board wants to get its pants sued off by unhappy Dow Jones investors.
And when it comes to a bidding battle, never rule out Murdoch. He comes to play and pay. His $5 billion bid is about $60 per share--a height that Dow Jones stock hasn't reached in many years.
But other suitors may surface. Among the names being thrashed about: Time Warner, New York Times Co., Washington Post Co. and, my personal favorite, business news provider Bloomberg LP ---which is financially healthier and shrewder than those first three companies put together.
Marketwatch is speculating that GE, which owns NBC Universal and cable TV business network CNBC, may bid. (My opinion: Not likely.)
Hey, if we're tossing out names why not Google or Yahoo? Content is still king and Dow Jones churns out alot of it. Maybe Microsoft? Or just Bill Gates?(wouldn't it be clever to put WSJ in his charitable trust?)
Also, don't forget those private equity players or super-rich individual investors (hello, Warren Buffett) who could cut a deal with the Bancroft family--which is a controlling shareholder in Dow Jones and said it's not interested in Murdoch's offer. From there, they take Dow Jones private.
(Must be nice to turn down a huge slice of $5 billion. I have to try that sometime.)
We've already seen a similar buyout dance in Chicago, where the Tribune Co. went through an auction process only to be swooped up by investor Sam Zell (with the help of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan).
Dow Jones' case is different because Murdoch is willing to pay real money to acquire it. He sees a bargain for terrific content that could factor into his stated plans to start a new cable TV financial news network and beyond.
One thing is certain: This business news story is just beginning.

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