Saturday, May 7, 2011

Money beats blood in Dow Jones deal

Saturday, May 7, 2011

But sooner or later, their lavish lifestyles become too expensive for dividend clipping to support. That's when many cash in the family jewels. Ancestors be damned. Money wins over blood.

Descendants of newspaper pathfinders used to be different. Now, most are not. That's why the Bancroft family heirs are about to sell Dow Jones & Co., including The Wall Street Journal.

No Bancroft has been involved in the operation for decades. Hired hands happily have had free rein. Now, editorial writers, columnists and even reporters are trying to derail the Journal's sale to media mogul Rupert Murdoch. They fear he'll be a hands-on owner.

The Bancrofts' hands-off ownership has had mixed results. Highlights and lowlights:

•President Bernard Kilgore (1945-67) and editor Vermont Royster (1958-71) were most responsible for the Journal's journalistic and financial successes.

•Peter Kann held various titles, including publisher and CEO from 1989 to 2007. His wife, Karen Elliott House, was senior vice president and publisher of all the Journal print editions from 2002 to last year. They planned and started the Journal Saturday edition, which has been a huge financial drain.

Any expert hands-on owner could have helped Kilgore and Royster do even better. An involved owner would have blocked Kann's ill-fated Saturday experiment.

When the Journal sale is completed, only these two major U.S. newspapers will be family-controlled and -operated:

The New York Times, with Chairman and Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

The Washington Post, with Chairman Donald E. Graham.

Fortunately, both Sulzberger and Graham are made of the right stuff to maintain their family heritage.

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