Well, depending on your point of view, our long national media nightmare is over or it is just beginning. Or both. Or, potentially neither. Rupert Murdoch has received approval from the Dow Jones board to purchase the company for $5 billion. Dow shareholders are probably pricing iPhones. Wall Street Journal reporters are singing a dispiriting chorus of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Jack Shafer is out there, somewhere, passing a fiery ball of angst from his psyche like a pissed-off gallstone. The deal is done, the die is cast, it's been a hell of ride folks, and it's time to go home.
Unless, unless, unless. Right now, the only thing left that can stop the Murdoch takeover is the Bancroft family. Leslie Hill, a Bancroft, abstained from the DJ vote along with the very old-European monikered Dieter von Holtzbrinck, and Christopher Bancroft left the meeting early. Christopher Bancroft has been furtively questing to do whatever he can to scotch the deal, meeting with private equity firms and various hedge fund managers in the attempt to buy up enough shares of DJ stock to prevent the takeover, but, given the enormous upward drift of DJ's stock price since Rupert's offer became common knowledge, his eleventh hour tactics fall very much into the category of a day late and about $30/share short.
If the deal goes down, one might do well to remember the marvelous bit of jujitsu Murdoch pulled off, leveraging his greatest liability--his well-known tendency to run roughshod over editorial independence when it suited his financial needs--into a force that helped power the deal to its conclusion. The early hope of Murdoch critics was that the Bancrofts--mythologized far and wide for being advocates of editorial independence--would create enough barriers to make the deal untenable to Murdoch. But the protections the Bancrofts decided upon were little more than a high-minded fig leaf, and the job protections they offered the Wall Street Journal's top editors went a long way to making a potential Murdoch regime seem palatable.
As far as the Bancrofts go, the Journal reports today that it's currently "too close to call" whether they are likely to vote in favor or against the suit. Naturally, should they reject the offer, the stock price is likely to submarine--and quickly: Murdoch's interest in Dow Jones might be the only thing that keeps the share value up ahead of an earnings report tomorrow that's expected to be somewhat gloomy. And let's not forget, if the Bancrofts nix the deal and the share price goes south, it will probably unleash a monsoon of shareholder lawsuits. So, for the family, this decision basically boils down to a moment of shame versus an extended period of utter grief.
So, yeah. We're definitely standing on the other side of the Rubicon now, and Gaul looks primed for a fall.