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Opera-singing Bancroft to join News Corp board

NEW YORK - Natalie Bancroft, a 27-year-old opera singer who knows little about business or journalism, has been chosen after a month of internal debate by the Dow Jones-owning Bancroft family to sit on the News Corporation board ahead of the $5.6bn sale of the company to Rupert Murdoch.

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According to a report in the family's house paper, The Wall Street Journal, the choice of who would sit on the News Corp board has led to heated family discussion, described by the paper as "unruly" and led to the family missing a 30-day deadline.

There had been a number of disagreements in the run-up to the sale within the Bancroft family, some of whom were against selling to News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch played his role in the choice as well and nixed one candidate, deflected another and insisted on a woman, which resulted in the choice of mezzo-soprano opera singer Natalie Bancroft, who lives in Geneva.

Michael Elefante, the family's lawyer, said in a recent interview: "I don't think we've distinguished ourselves in how we've handled this."

The paper quoted one family member, Crawford Hill, as describing the deliberations as a "sad and pathetic, final episode...a fiasco. No wonder we lost Dow Jones."

It had been thought that the board position would go to former WSJ managing editor Paul Steiger, who was fine by Murdoch, but Steiger declined. Another candidate put forward was John Carroll, a former editor of The Los Angeles Times. He was rejected by News Corp, which said it wanted a family member.

It was at this point that Natalie Bancroft emerged, saying that her candidature might appear "far fetched", but she was supported by her father, Hugh Bancroft III.

Another possible candidate was family member Elisabeth Goth Chelberg, who had years earlier slated the Dow Jones management and backed the News Corp deal, but Murdoch went for the younger and less experienced Natalie Bancroft, but who voted against the sale to Murdoch.

In a letter posted on the WSJ's website dated July 27, 2007, she wrote: "I am not for the selling because I believe the buyer is definitely not the right person to own this paper, but on the other hand, as protective as we are, and with much of the false pride many of us have, do we deserve to own this paper any longer?"

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