Sarah Ellison offers a truly "fair and balanced," behind-the-scenes look at Rupert Murdoch's 2007 takeover of Dow Jones and its crown jewel, the Wall Street Journal. In the book, Ellison transforms the daily copy she filed as mediareporter for the paper into a nail-biting thriller that delves into the family dysfunction, backroom dealings and ego bruising that characterized the decade's most fascinating business transaction. There's a panoply of new material here, from the incessant infighting that rendered Dow Jones' owners, the Bancroft family, impotent in their final dealings with Murdoch, to the mind-boggling details of the multimillion-dollar severance package paid to Marcus Brauchli, the ousted Journal editor. "I was amazed at how sources opened up," says Ellison. "I thought they had been pretty forthright during my original reporting. But when you give someone six months, they're often more reflective, more interested in delving back into the past as opposed to when they're in the heat of the moment." This voyeuristic look into the News Corp. empire will offer industry insiders and casual readers alike much to gnaw on as print journalism continues to contract. But Ellison is cautious to write off Murdoch just yet. "More than anything, Murdoch is a predatory competitor," she says. "He sees a tremendous competitive opportunity with the Journal. Whether he's fighting a battle that's worth fighting anymore or it's about being is to prove people wrong."
April 9, 2010
"This is an excellent book."
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Ellison, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, tells the story of the acquisition of Dow Jones & Company and the Journal in August 2007 by media giant Rupert Murdoch (at the top of his game at age 76) and his News Corp. After completing the deal, Murdoch waged wars on many fronts, relishing conflict with the Journal's staid newsroom, which led to substantial changes in format and the content became decidedly conservative. The New York Times and the White House were now his main adversaries. Along with these battles came the realization that the common newspaper enemy is the Internet. By 2009 the purchase of Dow Jones and the Journal became a significant financial drain and sullied Murdoch's business reputation as he wrote down $3.6 billion of his company's original $5.6 billion investment. The saga continues, and few would count out such a media icon as he. In response to criticism of today's Journal, he states, "We produced a better paper. ... I'm sorry but it's as simple as that." This is an excellent book.
-- Mary Whaley
In her new book, Ellison, a former reporter for the business newspaper, describes how the clever, persistent Aussie media maven Rupert Murdoch wrested the crown jewel of American newspapers from an outgunned Bancroft family. Ellison celebrates the $5 billion deal cooked up by Murdoch and his partners, and gets in a few body blows against the stodgy New York Times, the financially crippled American media and business world, and the snobby British print world as well throughout this take-no-prisoners chronicle. Some of Ellison's sharpest barbs are reserved for the hapless, dysfunctional Bancroft clan, revealing dark family secrets involving curious sexual habits, shifting alliances, and addictions, but the controversial Murdoch emerges as the bold business maverick and conquering media mogul. In the end, Ellison offers a close look into a raw, aggressive power in international commerce.
February 15, 2010
"A gripping reconstruction of a media story whose implications have yet to fully unfold."
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A former Wall Street Journal reporter delivers a behind-the-scenes account of Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the venerable publication.
From the beginning Murdoch was playing a larger game, larger even than the "mere" acquisition of Dow Jones & Co. By adding the nation's premier business-news organization and its coveted crown jewel to his already vast News Corp. empire, he intended to displace the New York Times as the country's news and opinion leader. To win over the Bancroft family-for 105 years the owners of the proudly independent Journal and without whom no transaction would be possible-and to calm the paper's nervous newsroom, the shrewdly self-aware Murdoch knew that he had to overcome his reputation as a meddling owner who used his newspapers to advance his own business interests and political views. Of course, his stunning $5 billion, $60-per-share offer was a good start to negotiations. Ellison appears to have nailed down all aspects of the deal. A ten-year Journal veteran and thoroughly versed in the paper's culture, the author capably describes the newsroom dynamic, both pre- and post-Murdoch, the shifting power centers and the transformation from a more contemplative, analytical form of journalism to the banner headline, breaking story, product of today. Ellison also excels at sorting out the 35 adult Bancrofts, exploring the family fissures Murdoch so adroitly exploited among a group who saw themselves as noble guardians of a fine tradition, but who come off here as thin-blooded, self-interested and no match for the Australian's thorough preparation and nimble maneuvering. Their feckless attempt to impose on the media baron a deal structure assuring editorial independence for the Journal, even as they helped themselves to his billions, almost defines a stewardship ripe for termination. It's a measure of Ellison's evenhandedness that, while clearly no Murdoch fan, she candidly exposes the ownership and management deficiencies that made a journalistic icon so vulnerable to capture.
A gripping reconstruction of a media story whose implications have yet to fully unfold.
January 26, 2010
War at the Wall St Journal an Interesting Read for NYT Publisher
January 19, 2010
War@WSJ: New Book Pulls Back Blankets on Murdoch's Capture of The Journal
The New York Times
"A scrupulously fair, careful account written from a close distance about how Rupert Murdoch came to own the crown jewel of American business journalism ... What we get is the mother of all tick-tock, an intimate look at how the Bancroft family fumbled away an asset they never really demonstrated much interest in as Mr. Murdoch pounced. When it comes to taking a measure of Mr. Murdoch, there is little of the moralistic keening that characterized the coverage at the time, with Ms. Ellison instead adopting the tone of an ichthyologist studying the feeding habits of a large, hungry shark...
"The Rupert Murdoch in War at the Wall Street Journal, so spectral in much of the coverage, is very much a flesh-and-blood presence here. Charming, querulous, distracted and fully engaged, his approach to business and life is reflected on many of the pages."