NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Internet entrepreneur and a Wall Street group have joined a list of potential rivals to News Corp.’s NWSa.N $5 billion bid for Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. Inc. DJ.N, an adviser to the Dow Jones employee union said on Thursday.
Ownership Associates founder Christopher Mackin, who is helping the union find alternative bids, said the entrepreneur and the group made contact with him. He declined to give their names.
The news comes after the head of the company that owns Philadelphia’s leading daily newspapers said he would be interested in mounting a counter bid against News Corp. and its chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch.
Philadelphia Media Holdings Chief Executive Brian Tierney also indicated he is willing to pay at least as much as Murdoch is offering.
“We don’t believe News Corp. is overpaying,” Tierney said in an e-mailed statement. “This is one of the greatest journalistic enterprises ever created.”
Tierney said he is interested in bidding with partners, but did not identify any.
“If there is a process for the sale of the business we would be inclined to participate in partnership with others,” he said in the brief statement.
A former public relations executive, Tierney last year led the investor group that bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News from McClatchy Co. MNI.N.
Tierney then cut 68 newsroom jobs, or 17 percent of the Inquirer’s editorial staff, in a bid to bolster financial performances. He also tried to expand their reach into the Philadelphia suburbs to attract more readers.
The Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees has approached up to 10 wealthy people about bidding for Dow Jones, but did not approach Tierney, union President Steven Yount said.
“He is not my guy. We did not recruit him,” Yount said.
The union, which represents about 2,000 Dow Jones workers, has approached billionaire investors Warren Buffett and Ron Burkle.
“I‘m looking for half-a-dozen billionaires with some interest in preserving the independence and integrity of The Wall Street Journal,” Yount said.
Burkle’s firm, Yucaipa Cos., is working with the union, but “has not committed to funding or financing,” Mackin said.
News Corp. submitted an unsolicited bid to buy Dow Jones for $60 a share, representing a 65 percent premium to the stock’s price when the offer was disclosed last month. The high price was meant to ward off rival bidders, analysts said.
Dow Jones’ controlling Bancroft family, which initially rejected the proposal, met Murdoch for the first time last week to entertain a possible deal.
Meanwhile, Dow Jones said in a regulatory filing on Thursday that it has bolstered its severance program for senior executives, saying it will help alleviate any worries they might have about their jobs or pay if a sale goes through.
The move, which would also make it slightly more expensive for whoever might acquire the publisher, includes adding another 135 senior management staff to those eligible for severance pay. It also set a minimum severance pay period of 12 weeks.
Analysts have said that Murdoch, head of a global media empire, is likely to be better placed than other bidders to handle the pressures facing Dow Jones and the newspaper industry, which is fighting the Internet for readers and advertising dollars.
“As rich as Mr. Burkle is, he doesn’t have that much. He could probably borrow it, but it would create an awful lot of financial pressure,” said newspaper analyst John Morton.
On the New York Stock Exchange, Dow Jones shares fell 16 cents to close at $60, and News Corp slipped 30 cents to $22.
Additional reporting by Paul Thomasch