Inquirer owner has interest in Dow Jones

Brian Tierney, CEO of Philly.com, Inquirer & Daily News, may enter fray

The company that owns The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com has expressed interest in joining with outside partners to buy Dow Jones & Co. Inc., the publisher of the storied Wall Street Journal.

"If there was a formalized bidding process, it would be our intention to participate," Brian Tierney, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., said last night. "We would participate as Philadelphia Media Holdings, along with other investors. We wouldn't do it alone."

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Brian Tierney's company would enter the bidding as a competitor to Rupert Murdoch, who is reportedly not a popular option for the current owners.

Dow Jones has been the object of a $5 billion takeover bid from the media baron Rupert Murdoch.

Tierney said he did not think the offer from Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., was excessive. At about $60 a share, the offer represents a premium of about 67 percent over the price of Dow Jones' stock before Murdoch's proposal became public.

"You're talking about some of the greatest brands globally," he said of the Journal and other Dow Jones properties, including Barron's and Dow Jones Newswires.

Tierney and his partners in Philadelphia Media Holdings, including Toll Bros. cofounder Bruce Toll, paid $562 million to buy The Inquirer and Daily News just over a year ago.

Their bid to buy the Philadelphia newspapers and Web site was greeted with skepticism, but Tierney's team of investors emerged as the winner in a bidding contest that included the giant MediaNews Group Inc., of Denver. A bid for Dow Jones would represent a much bigger challenge - almost 10 times bigger.

A Dow Jones representative had no comment on Tierney's expression of interest. Tierney said he had discussed a potential offer with representatives of Dow Jones and their advisers, but he would not name them.

Dow Jones stock is controlled by the Bancroft family, the descendants of Clarence Barron, who took ownership of the Journal in 1902.

The family has long opposed selling the paper, but recent reports have suggested that some of them are changing their minds because of the stock's poor performance and the attractiveness of Murdoch's offer.

The family was long held together by Jessie Bancroft Cox, Barron's stepgranddaughter. When she died in 1982, family unity began to deteriorate, according to an article in the Journal.

Although the Bancrofts live all over the world, some have strong and enduring Philadelphia roots. Cox's granddaughter, Leslie Hill, is a Dow Jones director. She grew up in Philadelphia and is the daughter of Louis Hill, a former state senator and Common Pleas Court judge who ran for mayor against Frank L. Rizzo in the 1975 Democratic primary.

The Journal has reported that Leslie Hill is open to selling Dow Jones, but opposes the Murdoch bid. She could not be reached for comment late last night.

Dow Jones has been under siege since News Corp. made its bid. The Journal is considered a bastion of journalistic excellence. Reporters and editors at the paper have worried that Murdoch would try to influence coverage to promote his political and business goals. He has often been accused of that at Fox News and the New York Post, both owned by News Corp.

Tierney angered journalists in Philadelphia after laying off more than 70 newsroom employees and reducing benefits to improve the company's financial position and to increase spending on marketing. In the six months that ended March, circulation for The Inquirer grew 0.6 percent.


Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.