Who Actually Owns the Wall Street Journal?

Mergers have changed the media landscape—not only how companies operate, but also how we consume information. There was a time, though, when the market was largely fragmented, meaning that a broadcast company concentrated its efforts on solely television or radio, while a publishing company owned just newspapers or magazines. But those days are long gone. Like many other industries, the world of media has been affected by consolidation. Today, large conglomerates like News Corporation don't just specialize in one type of media, they commonly own a range of media properties. News Corp. has a number of media outlets under its banner including the Wall Street Journal. This article looks at the newspaper's history and how the company came to acquire it.

Key Takeaways

  • The Wall Street Journal was founded in 1889 by Charles Bergstresser, Charles Dow, and Edward Jones.
  • It was taken over by Clarence Barron in 1902, who passed it down after his death to the Bancroft family in 1928.
  • Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation purchased Dow Jones & Company from the Bancrofts in 2007 for $5 billion or $60 per share.

A History of the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is one of the world's leading daily financial newspapers. It has dominated American business publishing and was the country's first national newspaper and has won more than three dozen Pulitzer Prizes for its work. The paper boasts a circulation of more than 2.8 million copies as of 2019—a number that includes both its print and online subscriptions.

The newspaper's first edition was published in 1889 by three men—Charles Bergstresser, Charles Dow, and Edward Jones. Since then, it's been printed six days a week and also offers readers an online version that was launched in 1996. Subscribers can also access the WSJ through its mobile app. There are also Asian and European versions of the newspaper.

The newspaper was owned exclusively by news company Dow Jones & Company. The company was taken over by Clarence Barron—the founder of Barron's Financial Weekly—in 1902, who passed it on to the Bancrofts in 1928. The Bancrofts owned a majority stake in the company with almost two-thirds of the company's voting shares.

Enter News Corporation

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (NWS) put in a takeover bid for Dow Jones & Company in 2007—an offer that was initially rejected by the Bancrofts. The family agreed to the deal several months later, selling the WSJ for $5 billion or $60 per share. The deal, which ended the 105-year-long ownership by the Bancroft family, was $2.25 billion—a 67% premium—over the announced market price on the day the offer first was announced. At the time, the newspaper industry was struggling, and many prominent daily papers already closed or drastically reduced production. Murdoch’s deal, therefore, was extremely attractive. News Corp. took over ownership of the WSJ as well as other Dow Jones assets including the Dow Jones Newswire.

News Corporation trades on the Nasdaq and is one of the companies that make up the S&P 500.

Murdoch is one of the world’s most powerful media tycoons. Born in Australia in 1931, he inherited a newspaper company from his father in 1952. Since taking over the family business, he amassed a number of assets including some of the world's top papers, broadcasting companies, magazines, and digital assets. The following is a short list of some of the other names that fall under the News Corp. banner:

  • Fox Corporation
  • HarperCollins
  • The New York Post
  • realtor.com
  • The Sunday Times (U.K.)
  • Vogue Australia
  • Sky News Australia

Phone-Hacking Scandal

Not long after News Corp. purchased the Wall Street Journal, news broke that journalists at British newspapers owned by Murdoch were tapping phone lines to get the inside scoop for their stories. While Murdoch said he had no direct involvement, the scandal forced the closure of the News of the World—Britain’s top-selling newspaper—and led to criminal charges against many senior journalists. As a result, Murdoch dropped his bid to purchase the BSkyB satellite network.

Most members of the Bancroft family said they would not have sold the company to Murdoch had they known of the conduct of his employees in the phone-hacking scandal. Even before news broke of the scandal, many members of the family showed concern over Murdoch's journalistic practices and attempted to put an independent panel in place to safeguard the paper's ethics.

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