Exclusive: Bloomberg eyes WSJ-parent Dow Jones, WaPo

December 25, 2022

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and media mogul, is interested in acquiring either Wall Street Journal parent company Dow Jones or the Washington Post, a source familiar with his thinking told Axios.

Why it matters: Bloomberg wants to expand his media empire and sees Dow Jones as his ideal fit, but he would buy the Post if Jeff Bezos were interested in selling, the source said. 

  • The combination of Bloomberg and Dow Jones would create an unparalleled business news behemoth.

Details: Bloomberg, the source notes, would be interested in a potential acquisition of either property, but Dow Jones — the publisher of financial titles such as the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and MarketWatch — would be a stronger target.

  • Bloomberg is close to Dow Jones parent News Corp’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, and believes efforts to merge News Corp and its sister company Fox Corporation will fail, creating a possible opening.
  • At least one activist investor has said that they would rather News Corp spin off parts of its business — either its real estate platform or Dow Jones — to unlock value for investors.
  • Still, Bloomberg has not yet approached Murdoch about his interest, nor has he begun to engage any official third parties, like bankers, to evaluate the opportunity.
  • Bloomberg is friendly with, but not close to, Bezos, the source said. He sees the Post combined with Bloomberg as a formidable potential competitor to the New York Times.

A Dow Jones deal would give Bloomberg access to a premiere business title that could be leveraged to sell more subscriptions to the Bloomberg Terminal, a real-time data, news and analysis platform for financial professionals.

  • Subscriptions to the Terminal make up the vast majority of Bloomberg LP’s revenue, which surpassed $10 billion for the first time in 2018.
  • Bloomberg’s news offering, powered by Bloomberg Media — a separate division within Bloomberg LP — has helped the Terminal differentiate itself from other data and analysis platforms on Wall Street.
  • Bloomberg would plan to integrate any title he acquired with Bloomberg Media, creating a formidable business news empire, the source said.
  • News Corp declined to comment.

Between the lines: The Post, while less of an obvious fit, could help amplify Bloomberg’s federal government coverage, which includes Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Government.

  • The Post is on track to lose money this year and has lost digital subscribers following the Trump-era subscription bump.
  • The company, which was purchased by Jeff Bezos in 2013 for $250 million, said last week that layoffs are coming in the first quarter of 2023. The Post’s two big software bets under Bezos are being sidelined and potentially sold, leading some to wonder how invested Bezos continues to be in the property.
  • A Post spokesperson told Axios, “The Post is not for sale.”

The big picture: Bloomberg has a history of acquiring professional news companies and folding them into its media strategy.

  • Bloomberg LP bought what was then a professional services news and research group called the Bureau of National Affairs, or BNA, for around $990 million in 2011. Bloomberg BNA is now called Bloomberg Industry Group and includes subdivisions focused on topics like legal reporting.
  • The company acquired a portfolio benchmark and strategy indices business from Barclays in 2016 and eventually rebranded it as Bloomberg Indices after a five-year co-branding agreement with Barclays expired