Murdoch Bids for Dow Jones

NEW YORK News Corp. has made a $5 billion offer for Dow Jones & Co. that would give the company control over The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones’ financial news service that would make the upcoming Fox Business Channel an even more formidable competitor.

Dow Jones confirmed the $60 a share offer Tuesday and said that the Bancroft family, which holds 62 percent of the company’s shares, was evaluating the offer along with the company’s board of directors.

It said it had received “an unsolicited proposal from News Corp. to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Dow Jones common stock and Class B common stock for $60 per share in cash, or in a combination of cash and News Corp. securities.”

Dow Jones shares rose 57.7 percent to $57.28 before trading was temporarily halted. The stock’s previous 52-week high was $40.08.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has long coveted the WJS and its editorial page, which is one of the most influential in the country. Murdoch already owns a stable of newspapers in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. But it isn’t only the WSJ that would make an incredible fit for News Corp.

Acquisition of Dow Jones, and its deep financial news service, would be a boon for the upcoming Fox Business Channel that will launch this year in about 30 million homes and could give it instant leverage against arch rival CNBC.

CNBC, which first reported the tender offer late Tuesday morning, said that Dow Jones and CNBC’s parent company General Electric have a deal that runs through 2012. But it’s also true that Dow Jones and CNBC have in recent years done less and less business, on the Web and on the business channel they jointly started, than when CNBC started.

News Corp. was not available for comment Tuesday.

At an investor conference this year, Murdoch was asked about his interest in Dow Jones, and he said he didn’t expect that the company would be put up for sale any time soon. He also suggested that a takeover might be a hard sell to shareholders given the sluggish newspaper business.

He criticized though the WSJ‘s recent focus on putting most breaking news on the Internet and running more analytical pieces in print, arguing this could cost the paper some of its urgency.