Lots of newspapers, and other media, have covered the bid of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to buy Dow Jones & Company, including the Wall Street Journal. Today’s article in the New York Times, “A Family Meets Today to Hear the Complexities of a Bid for Dow Jones”, highlights the difficulty of the business decision faced by the Bancroft family. The family is reportedly deeply divided over the issue and unquestionably large in number, with eight members in the oldest living generation and more than two dozen in the next, with some of those family members having adult children of their own.
As the Times aptly sums up the challenge: “Money will not be the only issue on the table today, as the family considers its century-old legacy and the prospect of The Journal being in the hands of a company and an owner whose newspapering many members dislike.”
Although most closely-held businesses do not wrestle with decisions involving quite so many dollars and family members, with quite so much interest from the public, the issues here are not unique to the Bancrofts and Dow Jones & Company.
The division of money among family members of different generations, priorities, and passions, an attachment to a valued business legacy, and a deep concern about the future of the enterprise are a constellation of issues that many businesses can face and which can lead to conflict.
Mediation can help to ease difficult communication, to foster creativity in crafting the best solution possible, and to preserve family relations through a challenging time.