Dow Jones rival bid plan may include Bancrofts

One option for GE and Pearson would be to allow the family to keep a 20 percent stake in the company.

NEW YORK (Reuters/ -- 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's controlling family to 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 percent stake in the company, reported the Financial Times, which is published by Pearson.

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

GE (Charts, Fortune 500) owns the CNBC business television channel, and will face competition from News Corp (Charts, Fortune 500)., which is launching a business news channel of its own.

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

Under a scenario that has been discussed, CNBC, the FT 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 percent ownership in the new entity, with the Bancroft family members holding 10 to 20 percent 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 to comment. Pearson officials were not immediately available for comment. Multiple Bancroft family members did not return telephone calls seeking comment or declined to comment.

Dow Jones also owns the business news Web site, the Factiva electronic news archive and Dow Jones Newswires, which compete with Reuters Group Plc (Charts) in providing business news.

Pearson has also sounded out Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp (Charts, Fortune 500) and privately held newspaper and magazine publisher Hearst Corp. as partners, the Financial Times reported.

Other names circulating as potential suitors for Dow Jones include billionaire Ron Burkle, who teamed with the union representing Dow Jones employees, as well as Philadelphia newspaper executive Brian Tierney.

The IAPE union, which represents 2,000 Dow Jones workers, also said earlier this month it also approached Berkshire Hathaway's (down $200.10 to $109,100.00, Charts, Fortune 500) Warren Buffett about a potential counter-offer to News Corp.'s bid.

Buffett said last month it was "very, very unlikely" that he would bid for Dow Jones, either as a personal investment or together with his company Berkshire Hathaway, citing a high bid already on the table from Murdoch.

Dow Jones (up $1.11 to $59.01, Charts) shares jumped over 3 percent in Friday afternoon trade on the NYSE. Pearson (up $0.21 to $17.21, Charts) shares were more than 1 percent higher. Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to this story.