The fate of Dow Jones & Co. and its flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, lies in the hands of a patrician New England family that has shunned hands-on management and has instead entrusted much of its legacy to powerful but discreet Boston lawyers.
The Bancrofts, heirs to the controlling stock of Dow Jones, have a $5 billion offer for their company from media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. The family indicated Tuesday that it is not interested, and late yesterday the Dow Jones board said it would not act on the offer.
But that has not dampened speculation about a possible sale, which has continued to buoy Dow Jones stock since it jumped 55 percent on Tuesday.
The Bancroft heirs, who collectively own stock that would be worth about $1.2 billion if the Murdoch offer were accepted, have occasionally been divided on the question of how best to manage their Dow Jones holdings. While the heirs are scattered about the country and engaged in their own endeavors, the center of their financial power has remained in Boston, with the law firm of , on State Street, which will probably play a major role in their final decision .
With about 30 lawyers engaged in trust and estate law, Hemenway & Barnes has a catch phrase — “A Wealth of Experience” — that neatly describes its niche: managing old money.
Underscoring the law firm’s influence, messages on Tuesday and Wednesday declining Murdoch’s bid were relayed to Dow Jones by Hemenway & Barnes partner Michael B. Elefante. He is a Bancroft family attorney and a director who sits with three Bancroft family members on the 17-member Dow Jones board.
Nancy Reimer , an attorney at Donovan Hatem LLP in Boston who often works on cases involving family trusts, said Hemenway & Barnes has developed a powerful reputation for handling the estates of generations of wealthy Bostonians. In the case of the Dow Jones bid, she said, Hemenway & Barnes seems to be functioning as the “de facto gatekeeper” for the Bancroft family.