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IHOP Bids for Applebee's: The End of an American Institution?

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There's news of an enormous, potentially game-changing corporate acquisition, the reverberations of which will be felt all across the country. We speak, of course, of the announcement that IHOP Corp. will buy the Applebee's chain for $2.1 billion. IHOP plans to convert the floundering Applebee's, one of the few company-owned national food chains, to the more popular franchise model. Though the deal appears to make immediate economic sense, we're naturally worried about the possible loss of Applebee's legendary culinary freedom. Will celebrity chef Tyler Florence, who had just unveiled his bruschetta burger and herb-crusted chicken breast for the fall menu, set to debut September 18, be allowed to continue his independent and aggressive experimentation under IHOP Corp.?

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Stalled Traffic

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• After all that, Albany shelved Bloomberg's congestion-pricing idea, letting the federal-funding deadline pass without the issue even coming to a vote. Expect a new traffic-reducing proposal, nothing like Bloomberg's, later in the year. [NYT]

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‘Jane,’ So Over

MEDIAJane mag is dead. [Radar] • The Dow Jones board will meet with Ron Burkle today, but an alternative deal to Murdoch's appears unlikely. [NYT] • MTV Networks negotiated its upfront ad sales partly based on commercial ratings. [WSJ]

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Today in Dow Jones: Everything's Different; Nothing's Changed

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When last we checked in on the players in the New Corporation–Dow Jones drama — the star-crossed Bancroft family, their Wall Street Journal, the interloping scamp Rupert Murdoch, and the thousands of field hands who fear they'll be sold down the river if Murdoch gets his hands on the thing — a British business mag was reporting that a purchase deal was essentially done and Dow Jones spokesmen were saying it wasn't. Where do things stand today? The Times reports that the editor of that British biz mag insists his story is true; the Journal reports that Dow Jones is still desperately seeking other suitors, including Ron Burkle, though perhaps only as a way to get Rupe to raise his offer; senior Journal editors tell the Times a lot of Journal reporters will lose their jobs if no deal happens; one longtime big-shot editor left the paper for Business Week; and Norm Pearlstine, the former Journal managing editor who went on to run Time Inc., says in the L.A. Times that Murdoch should encourage the Journal to cover News Corp. aggressively. In other words, nothing has actually changed. Expert on Murdoch Insisted Dow Jones Deal Was Done [NYT] Dow Jones Makes Late Push to Find Other Buyers [WSJ] Job Cuts Averted as Bid for Journal Stays Open [NYT] Journal Editor to Join a Magazine [NYT] You've Got to Cover Yourself [LAT]

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Just Say No

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• Hidden among other traffic-reducing measures in New York's application for federal congestion-pricing funds is a doozy: Just Stay Home. One of the proposed changes is "telecommuting as a travel demand management strategy." [Metro NY] • The Post, firmly on Joe's side in the Bruno-Spitzer battle, reports that Spitzer's aides pretty much begged anyone with a badge to investigate the state senator (including, unsuccessfully, "at least one New York City D.A." — how many of those do we have?). [NYP] • Despite "experts" insisting that the Bancroft-Murdoch deal is done, the Dow Jones board will be meeting with Ron Burkle today. In the meantime, Journal defections start: A top editor is moving to Business Week. [NYT] • The first week the new noise regulations were in effect prove one thing: We're a city of nasty little tattletales. The top complaint to 311 — almost half of the calls — concerned not construction clatter or Mister Softee but noisy neighbors. [NYDN] • And here's a free mobile service that puts Google Maps to shame. Should you ever find yourself lost in the Manhattan grid with nowhere to relieve yourself, mizpee.com will send you the address of the "closest, cleanest" restroom. You know, in case you lose the ability to walk into a hotel lobby on your own. [NYDN]

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Who Will Catch the ‘Journal’ Stars?

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Even before Rupert Murdoch declared his intentions, The Wall Street Journal was already a bit under siege. The paper is full of talent that other publications want, and greedy rival editors — from Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, Portfolio, Newsweek, Time, the Times — are drawing up their lists of Journalistas to entice away. After the jump, a speculative shopping list.

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Breaking: There May or May Not Be a Deal for Dow Jones!

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A British mag called The Business is confidently reporting today that "Rupert Murdoch has succeeded with his $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, owners of the Wall Street Journal, according to sources acting for the Dow Jones board." The Business says the price is $60 per share, that the deal includes the legally enforceable editorial-integrity agreement reached last week, that the Bancrofts are all onboard, and that the deal will be announced next week. Just one little problem. Dow Jones says none of it is true:
A spokeswoman for Dow Jones said the report from The Business was "false." She said there has been "no change" in ongoing negotiations on the takeover offer from News Corp. (NWS). "The only agreement is on editorial independence," said the spokeswoman, Andrea Grinbaum.
Sigh. We really have to deal with this on a summer Friday? EXCLUSIVE: Rupert Murdoch buys Dow Jones, owners of the Wall Street Journal [The Business] Dow Jones: Report On Completed News Corp Deal 'False' [DJ Newswires via CNNMoney]

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Scarborough Takes Imus's Slot

MEDIA • Joe Scarborough picks up Don Imus's coveted MSNBC morning slot. [Radar] • The Dow Jones editorial-independence agreement with News Corp. stipulates that disputes will be aired on the Journal's editorial page. [WSJ] • News Corp. bought two Bronx weeklies, expanding its weekly neighborhood newspaper holdings. But how well will Murdoch papers go over in Greenpoint and Williamsburg? [NYT]

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The Return of Imus?

MEDIA • CBS Radio employees are hinting that Don Imus may be back in the fall. [NYP] • Former Intermix head Brad Greenspan, who once owned MySpace, has made his own bid for Dow Jones. [NYT] • Universal Music has canceled its contract with iTunes and will now sell music through Apple at will. [NYT]

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‘WSJ’ Editorial Deal Reached: Umpteenth Verse, Same As the First

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So Rupert Murdoch made a bid for Dow Jones. And he said he'd create an independent oversight board for The Wall Street Journal like he did for the London Times when he bought it, which can veto News Corp.'s top-level hiring decisions. And the Bancrofts were miffed about that. The London board wasn't strong enough. It couldn't protect their paper enough. Hell, it couldn't even protect Harry Evans. They wanted a strong, all-powerful board. They wanted Murdoch's money, but they didn't want him hurting their newspaper. Murdoch, however, rejected their proposal. He didn't want an all-powerful outside board. He didn't even offer a board as powerful as London's. "They can't sell their company and still control it — that's not how it works," he said to Time magazine. "I'm sorry!" And now today the Times reports a deal has been reached on an oversight board. It will, after all that, be much like London's. Still Another View of Role of Panel Proposed for Wall St. Journal [NYT]

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Liz Claiborne, 78

FASHION • Sportswear pioneer Liz Claiborne died yesterday of abdominal cancer at age 78. [WWD] • VH1 plans a new reality series called America the Ugly in which normal people get berated by the Wilhelmina executive from The Agency. [Flypaper] • The new face of Versace is a 16-year-old boy. [French Vogue via Fashionista]

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Murdoch Waits on Bancrofts

MEDIA • Rupert Murdoch reaches a deal with Dow Jones and gives the Bancrofts three weeks to take it or leave it. [Reuters] • Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker's Washington correspondent, defected for a top role at The Atlantic. [WWD] • Secret passageway from Sardi's to the Times building no longer a secret, or useful. [NYO]

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Dow Jones, Murdoch Reach Deal (Sort of, Probably)

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Dow Jones and News Corporation have reached a deal on editorial independence! Huzzah! Now the deal can go forward, and the Bancrofts can get their money, and Murdoch can get his newspaper, and the august traditions of the Wall Street Journal can be protected! So how did it all happen? Um, dunno. It's the top story on the Journal's site and one of the top stories on Times' site, but, actually, no one knows what the deal was — Murdoch dismissed the last Bancroft proposal — whether it's got more teeth than Murdoch's London Times deal, whether the Bancrofts will actually accept it, whether Murdoch will sweeten his bid, or, well, just about anything else. But, hey, let's not get caught up in such trivialities. Congrats, Rupert. Dow Jones, News Corp. Agree on Set of Editorial Protections [WSJ] Tentative Accord Reached on Dow Jones Control [NYT]

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Bedbugs Infest Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

LAW • Bedbugs infest Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft's New York office, but the person who "brought the insects into the firm … is no longer associated with the firm." [Above the Law] • Wannabe law students are looking to blogs and independent rankings for information about prospective schools. [WSJ] • Two partners at Chadbourne & Parke are drafting a lawsuit to force the New York State Legislature to raise judicial pay. [New York Law Journal]

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Rejected Proposal Shows Bancrofts Really, Really, Really Hate Rupert Murdoch

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So how much exactly does the Bancroft family dislike, distrust, and generally feel icky about Rupert Murdoch? Last week the family's lawyers drafted a proposal to protect the paper's editorial independence in the event of a sale, and the family rejected it as insufficiently strong. Tim Rutten at the L.A. Times got his hands on the plan, which he calls "an extraordinary document — unusual in the severity of its prescriptions; stunning in its unspoken assumption of Murdoch's reflexive bad faith." So what were the proposals? A few statements of principle — "the clear separation of news and opinion," "the freedom to report the news free from fear or favor and to express opinions critical of governmental agencies, interest groups, management, customers and others with a stake in the success of the company," and the like — combined with a board-of-directors subcommittee called the "Special Committee on Editorial and Journalistic Independence and Integrity," basically charged with protecting those principles.

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Another Buyer Interested in Dow Jones

MEDIA • Brian Tierney, the ad executive who bought the Philadelphia Inquirer, is interested in bidding on Dow Jones. [DealBook/NYT] • Women's Wear Daily is the latest paper to sell ads on its front page; the crass commercialism doesn't seem to bother anyone these days. [NYT] • The Newspaper Guild of New York (representing Time, Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Money, People, and Sports Illustrated) accuses Time Inc. of bargaining in bad faith. [Romenesko]

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William Safire to Monitor Murdoch's Grammar?

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The biggest sticking point in the Bancroft-Murdoch dialogue about the fate of Dow Jones is seeming to be the Wall Street Journal's storied editorial independence. The Bancrofts want Murdoch's cash, but they don't want him mucking with their newsroom. The solution? To create an outside board with the power to hire and fire top editors. This leads to intriguing idle amusement for the rest of us: Who will sit on the WSJ board? Today's Times gamely speculates. An ideal candidate would be a big-name journalist at the sunset of his or her career with no Dow Jones ties. Ben Bradlee, Joe Lelyveld, and even William Safire are suggested. For its own part, the Journal's editorial page got into the act yesterday, with a unique screed touting its own integrity: "Our owners have allowed us to speak our mind." Which is particularly easy in cases like this, no doubt, in which they all agree. Independence Still the Issue at Dow Jones [NYT] Earlier: Rupert Murdoch, Constructivist?

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Rupert Murdoch, Constructivist

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"Constructive" was the word coming out of yesterday's meeting between Rupert Murdoch and the Bancroft family. In such cases, "constructive" usually means the sides haven't agreed on a single thing but will talk again. We know that the conversation ran far longer than expected, about four hours (good news for Murdoch), and stalled over the issue of editorial independence (good news for wary Wall Street Journal writers). See, the Bancrofts want the Journal's staff to report to a family-run board completely outside the News Corp. structure. Murdoch finds the idea unworkable and counterproposed an "independent" governing board like the one he set up for the London Times when he bought it in 1981. Of course, upon buying the Times, Rupe wasted no time before muscling out its editor, board or no board.

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If You've Been Injured by a Man With Tuberculosis …

LAW • So the guy with the dangerous strain of tuberculosis (now quarantined in Colorado) is, naturally, a personal-injury lawyer. [Law Blog/WSJ] • An in-house lawyer at G.E. sued the company for gender discrimination but worries she won't find many plaintiffs to join her in a class action. [NYT] • Though William Lerach was never indicted as part of the Millberg Weiss kickback case, he is considering leaving his own securities firm. [NYT]

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Murdoch's Meeting

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• Now, finally, inevitably, the Bancroft family has announced it would "consider" selling Dow Jones. The rest is hemming and hedging, but do click through for the most ridiculously villainous photo of Murdoch the Times has ever run. [NYT] • Leroy Comria, a city councilman, has been issued police protection after another councilman's aide kinda sorta threatened to assassinate him. Why? Because Comria wouldn't vote to rename a street in honor of Black Nationalist Sonny Carson. [NYP] • While Bloomberg wants to increase the city's real-estate tax cut from 5 to 8.5 percent, renters are screwed again — looks like the Christine Quinn–proposed $300 refund to the city tenants won't happen. [NYDN] • Columbia University, squeezed by the AG's office over an alleged violation of student-loan laws, denies any wrongdoing — but agrees to pay up to a million dollars nonetheless. [amNY] • And, in a possible first, the Hotel Chelsea Blog has inspired a documentary, Living With Legends. The last outpost of bohemia, gentrification, whither New York, blah blah. [WNBC]

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