A Dow Jones Bidding War?

Money talks and -- surprise! -- members of Dow Jones' (NYSE: DJ  ) founding Bancroft family are listening.

On Friday, shares of the media company surged nearly 15% on news that the Bancrofts would meet with News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) chief Rupert Murdoch to discuss a potential sale. News Corp. offered $5 billion, or $60 a share, for Dow Jones last month, which the board initially rejected.

Now, it seems they're willing to deal. Quoting from the family's statement to The Wall Street Journal last Thursday:

After a detailed review of the business of Dow Jones and the evolving competitive environment in which it operates, the Family has reached consensus that the mission of Dow Jones may be better accomplished in combination or collaboration with another organization, which may include News Corporation ... The Family also indicated its receptivity to other options.

Translation: Money talks, and we're willing to listen to anyone with billions to spend.

Will there really be another bidder? Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) is already heavily leveraged. New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) is too, plus a deal would make for an odd fit culturally. Washington Post (NYSE: WPO  ) has a sturdy balance sheet and could probably raise the required capital, but I can't imagine Warren Buffett, who remains a board member, approving of a deal this expensive. (Murdoch's offer amounts to roughly 41 times this year's earnings.)

You know who that leaves: cash-rich private equity firms and super-rich investors like Sam Zell, who recently bid for Tribune (NYSE: TRB  ) in an $8.2 billion deal.

It's this apparent zest for acquisitions, as well as the family's not-too-subtle statement to the Journal, that seems to have investors still bidding more than $60 a share for Dow Jones' stock. It's as if they believe a bidding war is all but inevitable.

Talk about a dangerous bet. When Murdoch first bid for Dow Jones, he offered a 65% premium to the going per-share price just so he could avoid a bidding war. I'm not sure any amount of resurgent greed from the Bancrofts will change that.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 4,380 out of more than 29,600 in CAPS, still reads his hometown newspaper each day. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Tim's portfolio holdings can be found at his Fool profile. His thoughts on Foolishness and investing may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is multicolored and read all over.


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