Hugh Bancroft III, Rupert Murdoch heir, buys Duke Cunningham home

Other family members end up in Rancho Santa Fe

— Now that conservative cable, movie, Internet, Fox TV, and newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch has made his $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, publisher of Barrons and the Wall Street Journal, all eyes are turning to Rancho Santa Fe, where Hugh Bancroft III -- one of about 35 Bancroft family heirs to the media empire -- has a house. And it's not just any house. A year ago last December, Bancroft, 56, paid $2.6 million for the Via del Charro home of ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, currently serving an eight-year prison term for accepting bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham and his wife Nancy had to forfeit most of the proceeds of the sale to the federal government as part of his plea bargain with prosecutors. Bancroft's primary residence is a much larger house, for which he paid $5.9 million in 1998, that he owns nearby on La Valle Plateada.

Bancroft isn't the only member of his clan to cotton to the eucalyptus-lined drives of Rancho Santa Fe and other North County environs. His late sister Bettina "Billie" Bancroft, a former Dow Jones director and world champion rider and Morgan horse breeder who died of lung cancer in May 1996 at age 55, lived in Rancho Santa Fe, as did their mother Bettina Gray -- a noted photographer and founder of the America's Cup of Hang Gliding, according to one obituary -- who died in 1998 at 83. Another of Billie's brothers, William Liscomb III, a pilot and builder of experimental aircraft, lives in San Marcos, and Billie's daughter, Elisabeth Chelberg, another world-famous horsewoman, once lived in Rancho Santa Fe as well as down the road in a house on the beach in Del Mar.

Billie and Hugh are great-grandchildren of Clarence W. Barron, who bought Dow Jones in 1902 from cofounder Charles H. Dow. A decade ago, Chelberg joined with cousin William "Billy" Cox to force management changes at Dow Jones in order to bolster the flagging stock price, but they had only limited success. So far the Bancroft family, which has voting control over the company, has spurned Murdoch's $60-a-share takeover offer, with one member quoted as saying, "Without the Wall Street Journal, we're just another rich family," but the Australian-born media magnate has vowed to keep up the pressure. ... In another, less stellar part of the newspaper-publishing galaxy, county property tax records show that David Copley has become sole owner of Foxhill, the grand manor on La Jolla's Country Club Drive that was the home of his late mother Helen and stepfather James. The transfer was recorded on April 11, which happened to be the same day that David's $380 million deal to sell Helen's seven Midwest daily newspapers to the GateHouse media chain became final. According to the deed, Copley as an individual was granted the house by the Helen K. Copley Revocable Trust 1983, of which he is a trustee, as are Copley Press CEO Chuck Patrick and La Jolla lawyer Karl ZoBell. Copley, who has for years lived down the hill in a complex of remodeled mini-mansions he fashioned into a compound he calls Foxhole, has reportedly been using Foxhill for parties.

Meanwhile, his 164-foot yacht Happy Days was most recently sighted on April 27 pulling into Horta Marina on the Azores island of Faial, according to the website The posh craft is apparently in spring transit, making its way back across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean from the Caribbean, where it spent the winter, after cruising the French Riviera last summer.

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