Christopher Bancroft Sounds Like a Rather Decent Human Being

Categories: Media

At this very moment, the family in control -- for now -- of Dow Jones & Company and The Wall Street Journal is huddled up at the Boston Hilton, trying to figure out if it's worth selling their crown jewel to Rupert Murdoch for, like, $1.2 billion. The Bancroft family members will have a few days to weigh Murdoch's offer, which was approved last week by the Dow Jones board, and we know there's at least one member of the family who's agin the deal: Christopher Bancroft. But truth is, we didn't know much about the local member of the Bancroft clan till last week -- like, oh, the fact he was an initial investor in Pegasus News. That's just how Chris Bancroft likes it, turns out -- the lower the profile, the better.

So here's a little more about the man behind the investment firm Bancroft Operations, courtesy this story about the pending deal and the likelihood of the Bancrofts yaying or naying the windfall. Turns out he's one of only three family members to sit on the Dow Jones board, he has 14.5 percent of the total Dow Jones shareholder vote, and his $2-million home in Argyle is hardly the largest house on the block, which is what happens when you live near Rex Tillerson. There's more:

Family members sometimes describe Christopher Bancroft as mercurial and dismissive, and some were piqued in May when he skipped a family gathering, and then wavered on whether to release a family statement agreeing to meet Murdoch.

But neighbors and associates in Texas describe Bancroft as affable and gracious, a man without airs who loves to talk business and donates to many charitable causes, but is determined not to attract attention...

"He has been a very good adviser to me" on business, said Chris Curtis, who owns GoVision, a company that supplies giant video screens for special events. "He's a smart guy, he's witty," Curtis said, but "If you polled this community, very few people know about him."

Bancroft and his wife, Sue, a former professional bassoonist, have three children. For many years, they have sponsored a series of free concerts by members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Opera's orchestra.

Rogene Russell, artistic director of Fine-Arts Chamber Players, the group that organizes the concerts, said she and others have wanted to nominate the Bancrofts for various awards and honors, but that the Bancrofts discouraged such recognition. She said that when a local arts center flooded, Bancroft wrote a check to cover the damage, but asked the center not to publicize his gift.

The Bancrofts gave $75,000 last year to a fund-raiser for the Argyle public schools, and Bancroft invited teachers -- who could not afford tickets to the event -- to share his table.

When reporters from The Wall Street Journal wrote to him this spring, urging him not to sell, he took the time to write individual responses to many of them.

He indulges his love of NASCAR racing at Texas Motor Speedway, where he owns condominiums and enjoys driving guests in a stretch golf cart to visit the pits.

Another love is Dow Jones. "I think that's dear to his heart," said a friend in Argyle, who requested anonymity because his employer had not authorized him to speak to the press. "He doesn't want to sell, even as much money as Murdoch is throwing at him."


You had us at "professional bassoonist." --Robert Wilonsky



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