Everybody Hates Rupert

I knew News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) chairman Rupert Murdoch was unpopular. Just not this unpopular.

On Monday, General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) revealed that it is contemplating a bid for Dow Jones (NYSE: DJ  ) with Financial Times publisher Pearson PLC, hoping to snatch the media giant away from News Corp., which offered $60 a share in May.

The GE-Pearson trial balloon is the second to be made public this month. Billionaire Ron Burkle expressed interest on June 5 but has yet to commit to a bid.

GE and Pearson, however, seem to be more serious. According to The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones' signature newspaper, they would create a privately held joint venture that would combine CNBC, the FT, and Dow Jones' media properties.

What's more, the deal would reportedly give members of the Bancroft family, who remain controlling shareholders of Dow Jones, a minority stake in the new firm. Apparently that's key. The Journal speculated in its coverage that the Bancrofts might react more favorably to a buyout offer from GE and Pearson because they're "worried that Mr. Murdoch might interfere in the Journal's news coverage."

Translation: The Bancrofts probably don't want to see the paper their patriarch, Clarence W. Barron, acquired more than a century ago become The New York Post.

I'd call that paranoia if it weren't justified. The Post is a caricature, nothing like it was before Murdoch took over. Yet that paranoia has consequences. Like, say, overpaying.

Dow Jones is at least 6% overvalued right now by my math. And that's using wildly optimistic data, such as 13% owner earnings growth over each of the next five years.

Which brings me back to Murdoch. If his rivals are willing to overpay to keep him from a decent but unspectacular media property, then Rupert has already won. He'll have forced competitors to commit capital they didn't plan on using while preserving his own war chest for the next battle.

Yep, everybody hates Rupert. Everybody except News Corp. shareholders, that is.

Related Foolishness is green, yellow, and read all over:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 5,047 out of more than 30,600 raters in Motley Fool 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 on assignment for your portfolio.


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