The Bancroft family is in chaos, with some factions denouncing the Murdoch sale as treason, others holding out for another few hundred million, and others happy to take the money. With deliberations continuing, experts say the vote is still too close to call, but from this vantage point, there seems enough disagreement that the sale will likely go through (anti-Murdoch unity being about the only way head off what is one of the most no-brainer takeover bids in recent years).
As of Saturday, however, at least one family member had finally seen reality. In a rambling, personal 4,000-word letter to his 34 relatives, moreover, Crawford Hill said his peace. His main point? This family doesn’t own Dow Jones–We own some stock in a company of that name.
[There is] a powerful disconnect between being an owner in name only and being an active, engaged and questioning owner… So much was completely taken for granted about our family’s relationship with DJ and what a responsible owner needs to attend to. Such things can never be taken for granted — they must be actively nurtured, cultivated, questioned, tested and honed. That has not happened in our family in any meaningful way.
…We, despite the attempts of a few, have not until very, very recently acted as successful owners do. We are actually now paying the price for our passivity over the past 25 years… Up until the past few months there has never existed a family culture of questioning management. Family directors have not gone out of their way to promote this basic concept — in fact we were always told by them that we need to support management, these things take time and we can’t really talk about anything important. I always wondered what the point of owning something was if you could not even seriously question those who had been hired, in essence by you, to run your business…
Right after our annual family dinner in NYC this April — sparsely attended — I mentioned how underwhelming the talks by our guests [CEO] Rich [Zannino] and [Board Chairman] Peter McPherson had been. A family director replied to me that I needed to give them time — they had a good plan. Then this same director told me after the Murdoch offer was announced that Rich should be fired. Now this same director is quoting Rich’s remarks about the company plan as a reason to spurn the Murdoch offer…
Despite Herculean effort by [my sister] Les, the fact is that there are no better alternatives out there now and Murdoch, like it or not, has what it takes to help the business flourish. He will not have naked bodies in the WSJ — he is not a moron.
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