NEW YORK—Former public relations executive Brian Tierney, whose Philadelphia Media Holdings group bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News last year, has emerged as a potential bidder for Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. after indicating that he would be willing to pay at least as much as the $5 billion offered by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
The announcement comes as all parties in the potential deal appear to be gearing up for a public relations battle. The Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones, has reportedly retained Kekst & Company, while the unions have retained a Boston-based communications firm, Ownership Associates, and News Corp is so far handling public relations internally. Local firm Devine & Powers has previously handled media relations for Philadelphia Media Holdings.
News Corp submitted an unsolicited bid for the company last month, offering $60 a share, or a 65 percent premium to the stock’s price at the time. The Bancroft family rejected the approach initially, but met with Murdoch for the first time last week.
News Corp has plans to launch a new cable business news channel in the fall, and it is believed to be looking for potential synergies between the Journal and that venture. But the bid is opposed by unions representing 2,000 Dow Jones employees, who have approached other potential bidders, including investor Warren Buffet and Clinton ally and confidante Ron Burkle.
“We don’t believe News Corp. is overpaying,” Tierney told Reuters in an e-mailed statement. “This is one of the greatest journalistic enterprises ever created.” He indicated that he would be likely to partner with others. But Tierney’s bid, if it materializes, is unlikely to be welcomed by workers. After Philadelphia Media Holdings acquired the two Philadelphia newspapers he announced plans to cut about 20 percent of editorial staff and has been locked in a battle with unions ever since.
Tierney, who built his public relations and advertising agency The Tierney Group into the largest firm in the city before selling it to Interpublic, paid $562 million for the Inquirer and Daily News.