Tierney confirms interest in paper

Phila. CEO might bid for Dow Jones

June 08, 2007|By Bloomberg News

Brian Tierney, who led a group that bought The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News last year for $515 million, said he might bid for Dow Jones & Co., competing with Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion offer.

In a statement, Tierney confirmed comments he made to The Wall Street Journal expressing interest in the New York-based company, publisher of Barron's and the Journal. Dow Jones' board put the company up for sale last week after the controlling Bancroft family agreed to consider Murdoch's offer and other possible bids.

Tierney, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, is the second potential bidder to surface as Dow Jones and the Bancrofts consider selling the company to Murdoch's News Corp. for $60 a share. Dow Jones' union, the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, has enlisted billionaire Ron Burkle to attract alternatives to Murdoch's bid.

"A Tierney bid is something of a long shot," said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism research group in Washington. "He would need a group of investors and he appears to have his hands full in Philadelphia."

A Wall Street group and an Internet entrepreneur have also expressed interest in mounting an offer, Reuters reported, quoting Christopher Mackin, an adviser to the employee union.

Mackin, founder and president of Ownership Associates, declined to identify the entrepreneur or the members of the group. He also said Burkle is working with the union but "has not committed funding or financing," Reuters reported.

Tierney, 50, a former advertising executive, doesn't think Murdoch is overpaying, he said in the statement. "If there is a process for the sale of the business we would be inclined to participate in partnership with others."

Dow Jones spokeswoman Andrea Grinbaum declined to comment. Roy Winnick, spokesman for the Bancrofts, had no immediate comment.

Dow Jones' union didn't contact Tierney to gauge his interest in the company, said IAPE President Steve Yount.

"Tierney wasn't one of those on a short list of billionaires who we believe would be interested in making a bid for Dow Jones," Yount said.

In June 2006, Tierney led a group of Philadelphia investors that included Toll Brothers Inc. Vice Chairman Bruce Toll to acquire the Philadelphia newspapers from McClatchy Co. The acquisition was financed with support from Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia Bank.

In January, The Philadelphia Inquirer eliminated 71 jobs, or 17 percent of its newsroom staff, after Tierney said cuts would be necessary to meet debt payments in light of advertising and circulation declines.

The job cuts came two weeks after unionized newsroom workers at the two newspapers agreed to forgo a pay raise and signed a three-year contract. The Inquirer's newsroom employs about 330 people, down from 630 in 1990, according to the Philadelphia Area Newspaper Guild.

Anne Gordon, former Inquirer managing editor and partner at New York-based private investment firm Dubilier & Co., said she viewed Tierney's interest with skepticism.

"Some may see similarities with Mr. Murdoch, but I would offer caution between a bold gesture and realistic bid," Gordon said.

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