Through much of last year, as the Bancroft family was wrestling over whether to sell Dow Jones to Rupert Murdoch, reporters covering the saga couldn't resist using the D-word.
"[M]ore dysfunctional than the house of Windsor" was how the Guardian described the Bancrofts. "It's dysfunctional as Paris Hilton's family is," quipped Ken Auletta on Charlie Rose. The New York Times (NYT) reported that "some advisers to Dow Jones and the family privately suggest that the family was so dysfunctional that it was almost impossible to have gained an edge on Mr. Murdoch."
Good thing for that "almost," because yesterday Rob Cox and Lauren Silva of Breakingviews.com take a fresh look at the numbers and conclude that, just maybe, those poor, feckless Bancrofts did manage to gain such an edge -- quite a valuable one, in fact.
Taking into account the price declines of other publicly-traded conglomerates with newspaper holdings, Cox and Silva estimate that Dow Jones, were it still a standalone operation, would be worth about $1.5 billion today -- a valuation they call "charitable." That's down from $3 billion before the takeover.
"On that basis, News Corporation (NWS) shareholders forfeited $3.5 billion of value to the Bancrofts and their fellow shareholders," they conclude.
Now, no one's suggesting that the Bancroft's public disharmony was actually a facade calculated to goad Murdoch into making a preposterously large preemptory offer. But it does make you wonder who deserves to be called dysfunctional and who ingenious, doesn't it?