DJ bid is Murdoch's to lose, Diller says

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NEW YORK -- News Corp.'s $5 billion bid for Dow Jones & Co. is Rupert Murdoch's to lose, but the media mogul still faces an uphill battle, media veteran and Web investor Barry Diller said Monday.

"I think that's a little better than even ... but not by much more," IAC/InterActiveCorp. chairman and CEO Diller told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York, when asked about the chances an offer for Dow Jones might succeed.

Members of the Bancroft family, who hold voting control over the Wall Street Journal publisher, have said they would oppose the News Corp. bid, which values Dow Jones at $60 per share.

"It is Rupert Murdoch's to lose," said Diller, who helped Murdoch build the Fox Broadcasting Co., now one of the top U.S. television networks, nearly two decades ago.

"You don't have to know Rupert Murdoch to know that he's made an offer and that he's aggressive," Diller said. "The only determinant here is what happens with the high-vote shares and whether or not the high-vote shares will vote to sell."

News of Murdoch's offer, which was made in April but revealed in May, spurred speculation of a new wave of media industry mergers, as well as talk of possible other suitors for Dow Jones. To date no rival offers have emerged.

Murdoch has said there is yet time to win over the Bancrofts and on Friday sent a letter to family members promising to preserve the journalistic integrity of Dow Jones' flagship newspaper.

He offered to appoint a family member to the News Corp. board, pledged to establish an editorial board to oversee the news pages, and to retain current management.

IAC and Dow Jones have teamed to create a personal finance Web site that will draw on content from the Journal and IAC's Ask.com search site, among other properties. The site is expected to launch in the second half of 2007.

Diller said it was too soon to tell if that partnership would be in any way affected by a deal between News Corp. and Dow Jones.

"We each have the option if there's a change of control ... to get out," Diller said of the venture. Asked if IAC would reconsider the venture if Dow Jones was owned by News Corp., he said: "Absolutely not. I think it would be enhanced."
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