It's a funny thing. When any of us has a deadline, we have to obey it. Work has to be in when work has to be in. Taxes must be postmarked by April 15. The 5:09 for Montauk leaves at, God willing, 5:09. But apparently if you're an already-rich family try to cash out on your newspaper company — or, for that matter, if you're the State of New York applying for a half-billion dollars — a deadline is but a trifling concern. And so yesterday's 5 p.m. cutoff for the Bancrofts to yea or nay a sale of Dow Jones to News Corporation came and went, and still no one knows the result. The Times today calls a deal "tantalizing close," and the soberer Journal says the two sides "edged closer."
Here's what we think is going to make the difference: the Denver trustees, who are generally in favor of a deal but last week announced they wanted a higher price for their supervoting shares. Both Dow and News Corp. said they wouldn't support a price differential. So the Denver lawyers came up with a compromise: Pay them the same amount as everyone for their shares, but then also have Dow Jones cover the various lawyers' and bankers' fees associated with the transaction, preserving the one-price deal but giving the Denver Bancrofts the extra fillip they want. The Journal says Dow Jones is wary about that move for legal reasons, but the Times reports — quite the soap-opera twist here — that the Boston trusts already have such a deal, to have Dow Jones pay their bankers. Our prediction? The company pays Denver's bills, Denver votes for the deal, and sometime today or tomorrow Rupert starts handing out the cigars.
The Journal story has lots more explanation of who currently stands where. It's sort of fascinating, if you're into this kind of thing. Which we confess we are.