Dow Jones CEO Richard Zannino is expected to announce his resignation Thursday afternoon, one week before Rupert Murdoch is set to assume official control of the company and its storied Wall Street Journal, when shareholders approve his $5.6 billion offer, according to people close to the development.
A News Corp. spokeswoman declined comment. A Dow Jones spokesman wasn't immediately available.
Last spring, barely a year after taking the helm at Dow Jones, Zannino had a fateful breakfast with Murdoch that ended with the mogul declaring his intent to launch a takeover attempt. Murdoch's aggressive bid left the controlling Bancroft family splintered and wallowing in recriminations, including some directed at Zannino, whom they suspected of favoring Murdoch's offer. Fearful that Murdoch might use the Journal as a platform to forward his own business and political views, numerous Dow Jones employees and executives tried to lobby the Bancrofts not to sell. But after Murdoch promised to preserve the Journal's editorial independence, the family decided to take the money and run. Now Journal staffers are waiting to see whether Murdoch keeps his promise.
Zannino's departure marks the beginning of high-level management changes that Murdoch's News Corp. is poised to begin announcing next week, according to people privy to the plans, who spoke on condition that they not be identified prematurely addressing the looming moves. One appointment will almost certainly involve Robert Thomson, editor of the News Corp.-owned Times of London. There's been lots of speculation of late that Thomson will take a top-level role at Dow Jones; just this week in the United Kingdom, headlines blared with predictions that a successor for Thomson will soon be named at the Times.
Murdoch apparently couldn't, or wouldn't, carve out a role to fit the ambitions of Zannino, a former fashion industry and retailing executive. But Zannino, the first nonjournalist ever at Dow Jones's helm, will exit with a severance package worth at least $19 million. And certainly an appreciative Murdoch, who long coveted the Journal, will send him off with a complimentary subscription.