GE, Pearson consider bid for Dow Jones

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NEW YORK -- General Electric Co. and Pearson Plc. may challenge News Corp.'s $5 billion bid for Dow Jones & Co. with a plan that could let Dow Jones' controlling Bancroft family keep an interest in the company, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal reported on their Web sites Sunday.

One option for GE and Pearson would be to allow the Bancroft family to keep a 20% stake in the company, reported the Financial Times, which is published by Pearson.

Selling Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, to GE and Pearson would be a better journalistic fit than News Corp., but there is "no rush" to examine the plan, a Bancroft family member told the Financial Times.

Talks are at an early stage and could collapse or result in another structure for a Dow Jones bid, both papers reported.

GE owns the CNBC business television channel, and will face competition from News Corp., which is launching a business news channel of its own.

Under a scenario that has been discussed, CNBC, the Financial Times and Dow Jones would be combined in a privately held joint venture, the Journal reported. The venture would be owned in equal parts by GE and Pearson, with the Bancroft family maintaining a minority stake in the new company, the Journal said.

GE and Pearson would each take a 40% or 45% ownership in the new entity, with the Bancroft family members holding 10%-20% of the new company, which would remain private, the Journal reported.

The paper said this structure would allow some of the family members to sell their stake but would let other family members roll their Dow Jones stock into the new company, avoiding any big tax bill.

The Journal reported that one family member said the Bancrofts have agreed they would give serious consideration to an offer that was lower than the $60 per share on offer from News Corp. if they felt the buyer could better protect the Wall Street Journal's integrity.

A Bancroft family spokesman and a General Electric spokesman declined comment. Pearson officials were not available for comment. Multiple Bancroft family members did not return telephone calls seeking comment or declined comment.

Dow Jones also owns the Marketwatch.com, the Factiva electronic news archive and Dow Jones Newswires, which compete with Reuters Group Plc. in providing business news.

Pearson also has sounded out Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp. and privately held newspaper and magazine publisher Hearst Corp. as partners, the Financial Times reported. An IAC spokeswoman declined comment.
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