Michael Bloomberg has expressed the desire to own a big-name newspaper over the years but has not reached out to Rupert Murdoch to discuss a possible purchase of Dow Jones and its flagship paper the Wall Street Journal, sources told Reuters news agency.
News website Axios reported earlier on Friday the billionaire owner of Bloomberg L.P. was interested in acquiring either WSJ parent Dow Jones from Murdoch's News Corp, or the Washington Post from Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, citing a source familiar with Bloomberg's thinking.
Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters no approach has been made from Bloomberg's side to Murdoch. A spokesperson for the Washington Post, which Bezos bought in 2013 for $250 million, said it is not for sale.
Acquiring a major newspaper has attracted Bloomberg's interest before, including the New York Times and Financial Times.
Either acquisition would give the 80-year-old billionaire a trophy media property to publicize his political agenda such as addressing climate change, or promoting tighter gun laws, sources told Reuters. Bloomberg is a former three-term mayor of New York City who also mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2020, seeking to become the Democratic Party's nominee.
"A Bloomberg acquisition of the (Post) is not necessarily just a business decision. Mike B is a policy/political person – mayor, presidential candidate — and such an acquisition would provide a tool to affect Washington public policies," said Eli Noam, professor emeritus at Columbia University's business school.
A merger with the Journal or Dow Jones would create a financial data and news giant, strengthening the grip of Bloomberg on the industry while drawing scrutiny from antitrust regulators. Bloomberg is the world's 12th richest person, with an estimated net worth of $76.8 billion, according to Forbes' calculations.
According to Axios, Bloomberg sees Dow Jones, also the publisher of Barron's and MarketWatch, as the ideal fit but would buy the Post if Bezos was interested in selling.
A Bloomberg L.P. spokesman dismissed the report as speculation and said, "there is nothing to comment on." Dow Jones did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment. Michael Bloomberg and Bezos did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and a spokesman for Rupert Murdoch declined to comment.
It is unclear if Murdoch - who is trying to reunite his News Corp and Fox Corp assets - would be open to considering an offer from Bloomberg, one person said.
Antitrust experts agreed that the merger of Bloomberg and Dow Jones' business news divisions would drive significant scrutiny from US regulators, especially as the Biden administration has taken a more muscular approach to enforcing antitrust laws.
The companies might be forced to divest business holdings to appease officials concerned about ensuring competition in the business news market, some experts said.
"They will be interested in the alternative choices available to users of financial information services and business journalism... as well as the impact, if any, on the labour market for financial journalists," said antitrust lawyer Jonathan Rubin.
The Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission declined to comment.
News Corp shares closed 2.8 per cent higher on Friday, outpacing modest gains in the broader market.
Murdoch's efforts to reunite his media empire nearly a decade after the companies split has met with stern opposition from several shareholders who say a combination would not realize the full value of News Corp.
Activist investor Irenic Capital Management, which holds about 2 per cent of News Corp's Class B voting shares, wrote a November letter to Murdoch and the News Corp board saying that Dow Jones would be highly valued as a separately traded company.
"The WSJ is a trophy property to the Murdoch family," said Craig Huber, media analyst at Huber Research Partners.
Media analyst Claire Enders of Britain's Enders Analysis said the Axios report will likely lead to nothing. "That's not happening. The WSJ is the core asset of News Corp," she said.
Reuters competes with Dow Jones and Bloomberg News, a unit of Bloomberg L.P., a provider of financial news.