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Murdoch May Seal 'Wall Street Journal' Deal


And we're going to talk about this with NPR's David Folkenflik. David, good morning.


INSKEEP: So if the CEO agrees to the deal, does that mean there is a deal?

FOLKENFLIK: They control about 64 percent of the voting stock, and this is very key because their shareholders get to vote in a marketplace democracy and figure out what they want. They have been very resistant - there are schisms within the family - but very resistant to the idea of Rupert Murdoch owning the Wall Street Journal as well as its sister publications.

INSKEEP: I assume price is not the issue here.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Murdoch offered, you know, a tremendous premium over what the company was valued at before he came along. It was in the mid-30s, dollars per- share. He offered $60 per-share. Five billion bucks - that's an incredible premium. So you had a lot of investors who are raring to go. Even so, there was some effort by Mr. Zannino and others to try to eek out a little bit of an additional bump on the price, but Murdoch held firm. He said, hey, this is my offer. I'm sticking to it.

INSKEEP: So that hasn't changed. The big issue, though - the bigger issue, perhaps, was editorial control, whether Rupert Murdoch was going to get to hire and fire editors at the Wall Street Journal, whether or not he was going to change the content of that paper, of which the Bancroft family is very proud.

FOLKENFLIK: That's right. I mean, the Wall Street Journal is obviously one of the exemplars of American journalism and there's been a strong, proud history of editorial independence. Rupert Murdoch comes from an Australian and British tradition where there's more of a tradition of editorial dependence. In his prestigious papers he's been willing to give a little more leeway to places like the Times of London. But even so, it's been at times charged with strong support that he has meddled both to support his political-ideological conservative beliefs but also his financial interests in both Britain and the U.S.

INSKEEP: Well, okay, what's changed here? He made this initial offer, the family said, no way. Or a number of family members said, no way, never to Rupert Murdoch. The price hasn't changed a lot. What has changed, if anything, in this offer that would make it possible for the family to accept it now?

FOLKENFLIK: The second thing is Murdoch has made very clear - hey, this offer isn't indefinite. It's not going to go on forever. You either have to take my $5 billion or I'm going to walk away. And the rest of the investors are wondering are we ever going to get a premium for our investments.

INSKEEP: How do the Journal's reporters and editors feel about the prospect of Rupert Murdoch owning them? Well, let's not say owning them, owning the newspaper where they work.

FOLKENFLIK: And owning their parent company. You know there's a deep streak of cynicism, skepticism and concern among many of the reporters and editors to whom I've spoken about this. At the same time, Murdoch has promised he would invest in the Wall Street Journal rather than slash it. A lot of other possible corporate owners might do the reverse, given the difficulties of the industry.

INSKEEP: David, thanks for coming in.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
David Folkenflik
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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