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Dow Jones, News Corp. reach accord on oversight

June 27, 2007|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

Dow Jones & Co. struck a deal Tuesday with takeover suitor Rupert Murdoch on a plan to insulate the Wall Street Journal's pages from his business concerns, overcoming the biggest obstacle to the $5-billion acquisition.

The plan would establish a committee that would be able to veto decisions by Murdoch's News Corp. to fire the top Journal editor or hire his successors, according to people briefed on the negotiations. Any input from Murdoch on specific stories would go through the editor.

Details of the agreement weren't available, and some smaller issues were still being worked on. But both sides told associates that they were now confident of resolving the independence questions.

"There is substantial agreement on these main issues," said one person close to the process.

Dow Jones' negotiating team is working on behalf of the company's board, which took over the talks after the controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, failed to agree on what editorial protections they wanted.

The family has yet to be surveyed on the new compromise, which is weaker than what the Bancroft leaders handed off to the board. With 64% of the shareholder vote, the family could still upend the deal.

Talks with News Corp. are expected to move quickly to other issues including a final price, which may stay at the $60-per-share level Murdoch has offered.

Dow Jones shares rose $1.27 to $58.77, while News Corp. stock slipped 19 cents to $23.31.

Murdoch's offer valued Dow Jones at 65% more than the stock market did before he acted, and the high price has scared away others who considered making rival bids, including London-based Pearson, which publishes the Financial Times, the Journal's top competitor.

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joseph.menn@latimes.com

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