If money didn't talk, there wouldn't be a Dow Jones & Co. empire.
It's not as though readers subscribe to the company's Wall Street Journal and its Web site simply to admire the quaint woodcut portraits.
Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion offer for the company it has controlled for 105 years, eventually would have to listen.
The Bancrofts, in a surprise shift, said Thursday that they at least will sit down for a chat with Murdoch.
Whether Murdoch's News Corp. will get the media and data company is uncertain. But, in a statement after a special Dow Jones board meeting, the Bancrofts indicated their concerns about what the feisty media baron might do to the company jewels if he gets his hands on them are being tempered by what might happen to the share price if he doesn't.
Before word of Murdoch's $60-per-share offer in early May, Dow Jones was trading at around $36, a little more than half its price seven years ago. It was at $53.31 at Thursday's close.
Citing the "evolving competitive environment" for media companies, the Bancrofts said they have "reached consensus that the mission of Dow Jones may be better accomplished in combination or collaboration with another organization, which may include News Corp." They plan to "meet with News Corp. to determine whether ... it will be possible to ensure the level of commitment to editorial independence, integrity and journalistic freedom that is the hallmark of Dow Jones."
By indicating a willingness to talk, the Bancrofts, who as a group have 64 percent of the company's voting power, may be simply trying to flush out other potential bidders, rather than fall in behind Murdoch, whose reputation as a hands-on media mogul is a concern for some.
According to Dow Jones, the board will "consider strategic alternatives," a familiar phrase for those who followed the drawn-out privatization saga of Chicago Tribune parent Tribune Co. But the company said there is no guarantee this will result in any action.
Still, Murdoch has to welcome this shift from the Bancrofts, who, shortly after his bid was reported, informed Dow Jones that, through its holdings, at least 52 percent of the company's total voting power was against the bid.
"We're grateful to the Bancroft family for agreeing to our suggestion of a meeting, and we look forward to it," a News Corp. spokesman said.
Not everyone believes Murdoch, whose global empire includes 20th Century Fox film studios, Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, the New York Post, The Times of London, The Australian, HarperCollins and MySpa ce.com, won't interfere editorially to advance his own agendas.
"We urge [the Bancrofts] to stand firm and maintain their principled stand," Steven Yount, president of a union that represents more than 2,000 Dow Jones staffers, said in a statement. "We don't believe the promises Mr. Murdoch has made can be trusted. Dow Jones must remain an independent company if it is to prosper."
Others, however, insist the reason Murdoch is willing to pay such a hefty premium for Dow Jones is he wants to bask in its glow, not tarnish it.
News Corp. plans to launch a cable business channel in the fall that could benefit from the resources and reputation of Dow Jones, and many suspect he sees opportunities to expand the reach of the Journal, Barron's, Market Watch.com and its other properties.
"You have people complaining about Rupert Murdoch's alleged behavior as an owner of media properties," Brit Hume, who's been an anchor for Murdoch's Fox News Channel since its inception more than a decade ago, said in a recent interview.
"He has, over the years, owned many different kinds of media properties, and he's allowed them to be what they needed to be for their niche in the market. Obviously, the Wall Street Journal has a special place, and it's unimaginable, especially as a businessman, [that he would] screw around with that asset. What he wants is some synergy from it for some of his other properties, which would probably expand the brand of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones rather than the other way around."
Obviously, the Bancrofts still can say no. But given this shift, will they?
"The history of these things, when there's a big family asset, and you're down a couple generations and there are a lot of cousins, is it's like a summer house," Hume said. "It costs a lot of maintain, and you may get some rental income from it, but maybe not as much as you think it's worth.
"It's a great big asset, and there are going to be some people who want to keep it and use it, and some people who want to sell it. If there are enough people who want to sell it, it gets sold."