After meeting this afternoon, the board issued a statement confirming that about 80 percent of the Bancroft family's voting power opposes the Murdoch bid. But that represents just 52 percent of the voting power of the full company. As reported by the WSJ tonight, "the margin is thin, and the family is large and far-flung and didn't know it would be under pressure to express a preference until Tuesday, when CNBC broke the news of the offer." You can see where this is going: Murdoch can start lobbying the fence-sitters - and it wouldn't take many folding Bancrofts to lower that 52 percent figure.
The independent directors are in a delicate position with the family. If the family continues to be steadfastly against a sale, the other directors on the board would have no role, a person familiar with the nonfamily directors' thinking said. That is a change from just last week, when the board was preparing a special committee to explore discussions with Mr. Murdoch. Without the family's voting sway, the person said, the board would almost certainly vote to approve the offer, which represents a 54% premium over Dow Jones's closing price Monday. But one person close to the family said that "ultimately they could have something here. They're not all together." This person noted that a generational rift has broken out between the family's younger members and its older ones, with the latter more resistant to Mr. Murdoch's overture.
There are three branches of the Bancroft family, but the Journal notes that within those branches are subbranches and trusts (and you thought the Tribune deal was a snake pit). Throughout the branches are differing opinions. "News Corp. is among the players trying to divine the inner workings of the family," reports the Journal.