Know Your Bancrofts


Photo: Getty Images

They’re the most watched formerly quite private rich family in America right now: the Bancrofts, proprietors of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal for the past century. The company’s board has approved Rupert Murdoch’s $5 billion takeover offer, but the deal isn’t done yet, and it won’t be till the family signs off. They’re meeting today in Boston to discuss. Who are they, exactly? After the jump, a family scorecard.

Christopher Bancroft, 56 and a Dow Jones board member, runs a Texas-based private-equity group. Perhaps the family’s most staunch antagonist to a News Corporation takeover, Bancroft walked out of the board meeting before directors voted to approve a merger. His plan has been to raise more than $300 million to buy enough family members’ “super-voting” shares to put the kibosh on the Murdoch deal.

Elizabeth Steele, 57 and a board member, runs an enviro-friendly development group in Vermont. She’s a daughter of Jane Bancroft Steele, who fought hard for the paper’s independence and to uphold the family motto of “never sell Grandpa’s paper.” As a Dow Jones board member, Steele voted to approve Murdoch’s offer, saying she “never thought it would get to this point.”

Leslie Hill, 53 and a board member, is a retired American Airlines pilot. Hill was at first open to Murdoch’s offer, encouraging family members to at least hear him out. Then she changed her mind, meeting with other potential buyers like supermarket billionaire and aspiring media tycoon Ron Burkle. She abstained from voting at the board meeting and seems to be at loggerheads with Christopher Bancroft over how to stop Murdoch, reportedly criticizing her cousin for showing up to meetings late. Her mother, Jane Cox MacElree, 78, controls 15 percent of the family’s shares in Dow Jones. MacElree has been quiet until now, but her shares will be necessary for Bancroft to use to defeat Murdoch.

Elizabeth Goth Chelberg, 42, is a champion equestrienne. Splitting her time between Prague and Kentucky, Chelberg inherited her mother Bettina Bancroft’s company stock (worth $23 million) a decade ago, but she’s been aloof on family matters and gave control of her shares to Christopher Bancroft. It’s unclear if she’s even attending today’s family meeting.

William Cox Jr., 76, retired. The only Bancroft family member to have worked at Dow Jones his entire career, Cox is an anti-Murdoch force and told the Journal, “If you give it to Murdoch, it’ll be ruined.” He might be in conflict with this son, William Cox III, who left the company after a botched business deal and has reportedly been trying to convince the younger generation of family members to accept Murdoch’s offer. —Geoffrey Gray, Brett Amelkin, and Michael Gsovski

Know Your Bancrofts