NEW YORK - Rupert Murdoch has sealed a deal to buy Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. for $5 billion, ending a century of family ownership and adding a crown jewel to his global media empire, News Corp.
The companies said early Wednesday morning that they signed a definitive agreement after the deal won sufficient support to pass from a deeply divided Bancroft family that has controlled the storied newspaper publisher for generations.
Murdoch is getting one of the great trophies of U.S. journalism and a newspaper that is considered required reading among the business and power elite.
The deal will also expand Murdoch's already massive global media and entertainment empire News Corp., which owns the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studio, the social networking site MySpace, newspapers in Australia and the U.K. and several satellite TV broadcasters.
Dow Jones and News Corp. said in a statement that Bancroft family members and trustees representing 37 percent of the company's shareholder vote have agreed to support the deal. Combined with the 29 percent of the vote held by public shareholders who are very likely to support Murdoch, the deal is now assured of passing.
The companies said a member of the Bancroft family or another mutually acceptable person would be appointed to News Corp.'s board of directors as part of the agreement.
The Bancroft family, descended over several generations from an early owner of Dow Jones, Clarence Barron, clashed long and hard over whether to sell to Murdoch, with several members saying they feared the quality and independence of the paper would suffer under his watch.
Some family members actively sought alternatives to Murdoch - without success. One of them, Leslie Hill, quit Dow Jones' board Tuesday as the deal edged toward completion, the Journal reported. Two weeks ago, another director quit in protest, German publishing executive Dieter von Holtzbrinck.
In a statement released early Wednesday morning, a family spokesman said: 'It is our most fervent hope that in the years to come, The Wall Street Journal will continue to enjoy, and deserve, the universal admiration and respect in which it is held all over the world.'
The paper's managing editor, Marcus Brauchli, tried to reassure newsroom employees that the Journal will maintain its editorial independence.
'It is too early to know how or even whether News Corp. ownership might alter priorities or structures at Dow Jones,' Brauchli wrote in an e-mail sent to Journal staffers early Wednesday. 'Our current and likely future owners have given formal assurances, however, that the newsroom will retain its independence.'