Philadelphia Publisher Confirms Interest in Bidding for Dow Jones

Brian Tierney, who forced cuts at two Philadelphia newspapers, may be among the new Journal suitors.
Brian Tierney, who forced cuts at two Philadelphia newspapers, may be among the new Journal suitors. (Rusty Kennedy - AP)
By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 2007

When Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News publisher Brian Tierney confirmed yesterday that he is interested in bidding for the Wall Street Journal and parent company Dow Jones, newsroom reaction ranged from disbelief to outright sarcasm.

Tierney, a Philadelphia public-relations man, bought the two newspapers for $562 million from the McClatchy newspaper chain in June 2006 after it swallowed the Knight Ridder newspapers three months earlier.

At the time of the purchase, Tierney promised no drastic cuts but soon realized the enormous costs of running declining large city dailies. He has been locked in a battle with the newspapers' unions ever since as well as narrowly averted a strike, laid off 75 newsroom staff members and made unpopular changes to pension and health plans.

So an embattled newsroom was surprised to hear that Tierney has the interest or financial ability to match Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion bid for Dow Jones.

"I'm tickled pink that Tierney has apparently found a mother lode of money coming from [the two newspapers] and I look forward to him sharing it with his employees," Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky said yesterday.

"I look forward to him welcoming back 75 people who lost their jobs because he said he couldn't afford to keep them. I'm looking forward to our pension being restored now that he's got enough money to be throwing at the Wall Street Journal. I'm looking forward to having our sick pay restored now that we know he's so flush."

At the same time, Bykofsky said that despite layoffs and cutbacks, the Daily News has added four staff members and has seen, like the Inquirer, a slight uptick in circulation and ad revenue under Tierney.

In a statement, Tierney called Dow Jones's Journal, news service and Barron's magazine some of "the greatest journalistic enterprises ever created." Tierney added that he does not think Murdoch would be overpaying for Dow Jones, even though Murdoch's bid of $60 per share was more than the stock's $36 price at the time of his bid.

Dow Jones stock closed yesterday at $60, down 16 cents. The stock price rose to more than $58 per share shortly after the public disclosure of Murdoch's bid in early May, settled back to about $52 per share throughout the month and then climbed to more than $60 per share after last week's news that Dow Jones's controlling shareholders had agreed to meet with Murdoch to discuss the deal.

Also yesterday, the Dow Jones union that is attempting to thwart Murdoch's bid for the company by enlisting its own billionaire bidders confirmed that it has received unsolicited interest from two entities -- a "Wall Street concern" and an "Internet entrepreneur," said Christopher Mackin, president of Ownership Associates, the firm hired by the union to find rival bidders. He declined to name the parties.

In a regulatory filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission released yesterday, Dow Jones made 135 managers eligible for a severance plan if the company is sold. The changes are meant to increase the company's ability to keep top-level managers from jumping ship if Dow Jones changes hands, the company said in the filing.

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