As Rupert Murdoch pockets Dow Jones to become the latest jewel in News Corp’s crown, a little known Boston legal character has emerged into the spotlight as a crucial player in the multibillion dollar media merger.
Robert Sable, the executive director of Greater Boston Legal Services, has known Michael B. Elefante for nearly 20 years through Elefante’s work on the organization’s board. But it wasn’t until Sable saw news stories about Rupert Murdoch’s bid to buy Dow Jones & Co. that he realized Elefante played a pivotal role in overseeing the Bancroft family trusts, which control the venerated news organization.
“Until this stuff came out in the papers, I had no idea how deeply he was involved” in Bancroft affairs, Sable said. “Not only does Mike not toot his horn, but he’s the utter soul of discretion.”
That penchant for discretion will be put to the test next week when as many as 35 adult members of the Bancroft clan meet in Boston to debate whether to accept Murdoch’s controversial $5 billion bid for the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, a company their family has controlled for more than a century.
The proposed sale of Dow Jones to Murdoch’s News Corp. has thrust Elefante, a previously little-known Boston attorney, into the public spotlight. The fact that one of his major clients had been a virtual secret to many of his colleagues reflects both Elefante’s reserved personality and the confidential nature of his work for a small State Street law firm, Hemenway & Barnes, that specializes in managing the trusts and estates of wealthy clients.