The Bancrofts are a family of publicly reclusive Boston socialites who inherited The Wall Street Journal from Clarence W. Barron, who as a publisher built up the reputation of that newspaper. Upon Barron's death in 1928, control of the company passed to his stepdaughters Jane and Martha, children of his wife, Jessie Waldron. Barron's son-in-law and Jane's husband, Harvard-educated lawyer Hugh Bancroft (1879-1933), ran the company and the paper for the next five years. Suffering from depression, Bancroft committed suicide in 1933 at the age of 54. The family members maintained ownership of the company through ensuing generations, though management was placed in the hands of capable professionals, like Journal editor Bernard Kilgore.
A notable family member of the following generation was Mary Bancroft (1903-1997), Hugh Bancroft's only daughter by his first marriage to Mary Agnes Cogan (1879-1903). She worked for U.S. intelligence in Switzerland during World War II. She wrote novels and a memoir, Autobiography of a Spy, before dying in 1997 at age ninety-three. She was survived by six grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.
Jane Bancroft's daughter Jessie Bancroft Cox was another prominent member of the second generation. Her husband, son, and grandson — William C. Cox, Bill Cox Jr., and Billy Cox III, respectively — were "the only Bancrofts to have actually worked at Dow Jones since Hugh Bancroft's suicide."
Dow Jones-NewsCorp sale
At the time of the 2007 sale of the Dow Jones Co. to NewsCorp, the Bancroft family (more than thirty members) owned 42 percent of the business but controlled 68 percent of the voting stock, through their possession of 7.5 million Class B shares. In the sale to Murdoch, the Bancrofts made more than $1.2 billion.
Bancroft family representatives filled three seats on the Dow Jones board of directors, representing three branches of the family — the descendants of the three children of Hugh and Jane Bancroft. At the time of the sale, those board members included Christopher Bancroft and his cousins Leslie Hill and Elizabeth Steele.
- Armstrong, Stephen (August 2, 2007). "Meet the Bancrofts, the media clan who sold out to Murdoch". The Guardian: g2. p. 2.
- Tungate, Mark (2004), Media Monoliths: How Great Media Brands Thrive and Survive, London: Kogan Page, p. 81
- Calhoun, Chris, ed. (2003), 52 McGs: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Writer Robert McG. Thomas, Jr., New York: Citadel Press, pp. 184–187
- "Mary Bancroft Dead at 93; U.S. Spy in World War II", New York Times, January 19, 1997
- Bancroft, Mary (1983), Autobiography of a Spy: Debutante, Writer, Confidante, Secret Agent; the True Story of Her Extraordinary Life, New York: William Morrow
- Wolff, Michael (2008), The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, New York: Broadway Books, p. 27
- Pavlik, John Vernon; McIntosh, Shawn (2003), Converging Media: An Introduction to Mass Communication, Old Tappan, NJ: Allyn & Bacon, p. 89