Natalie Bancroft unlikely choice for News Corp.

By A. James Memmott

November 8, 2007 at 9:06am

Natalie Bancroft, meet Viet Dinh.

Proving it can cover its own corporate owners with energy, the Wall Street Journal yesterday gave a full account of the latest bumbling and stumbling of the Bancroft family.

Earlier this year, the family, after great indecision and internal debate, agreed to sell Dow Jones & Co., which owned the Journal, to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

A condition of the sale, which isn’t final, was that the Bancrofts could name one person to serve on the News Corp. board.

After missing a deadline (proof, perhaps, that they’re not all that good at the journalism thing), the Bancrofts picked an unlikely rep, Natalie Bancroft.

Bancroft is described in the Journal as “a 27-year-old opera singer living in Europe, who by her own admission, is a relative neophyte to the worlds of both journalism and commerce.”

If she gets board approval, Bancroft will find herself sitting down with 16 men (she’ll be the only woman), all with longer resumes than she and most with close connections to Murdoch.

Many of these men can share back stories with Bancroft that focus on how they made their millions.

But the most compelling personal narrative might be that of board member Viet Dinh, 39, a refugee from Viet Nam who has connections in high places that would be remarkable for a person twice his age.

Dinh, his mother and five siblings, were among the boat people who fled Viet Nam in 1978. They settled in Portland, Ore., and then moved to Fullerton, Calif.

Dinh worked with his mother in a sewing shop and cooked in a fast-food restaurant. He also excelled in school and won a scholarship to Harvard College. He went on to excel at Harvard Law School.

After that, he first clerked for Laurence H. Silberman, a federal appellate judge and then for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Later, he joined the faculty of Georgetown University Law Center.

A conservative, Dinh has also moved in and out of government, displaying a knack for being on the scene at key historical moments.

He served as an associate counsel to the Senate Committee investigating the Clinton-era Whitewater affair, and he was special counsel to a Republican senator for the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.

He was an assistant attorney general from 2001 to 2003 and played an important role in the creation of the U.S. Patriot Act.

Dinh is also the founder and principal partner of Bancroft Associates, a Washington consulting and lobbying firm.

His wife, Jennifer Ashworth Dinh, is a lawyer and a member of the firm. Previously, she worked at the powerhouse firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

While Viet Dinh is clearly partisan, he is also touted for his friendly manner and ability to form friendships across party lines.

“Viet is ambient in town; he is everywhere,” one Washington lobbyist told the New York Observer.

Dinh was named to the News Corp. board in April 2004. Company filings show that he received $228,145 in compensation for the year ending June 30, 2007.

Last year, he represented another News Corp. board member, venture capitalist Thomas Perkins, who resigned from the board of Hewlett-Packard after learning that the company had used pretexting to read his confidential telecommunications.

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