Monday, January 28, 2008

Investors Challenge N. Y. Times Co.

Beneath the headline "Proxy Fight Planned at New York Times" the AP reports

A pair of investors disclosed plans Monday to name their own slate of four directors at The New York Times Co., saying the current board hasn't acted aggressively enough to meet the demands of the rapidly changing media industry.

The investors, Firebrand Partners and Harbinger Capital Partners, laid out their position in a letter to Times' Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson. The letter, dated Sunday, was disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday.

The Times said Friday that Harbinger had notified the company of its intention to name four directors for election at its next annual meeting on April 22. Firebrand indicated that it was working together with Harbinger and that together the two companies owned 4.9 percent of Times stock.

Investors pushed the Times' shares up $1.24 or 8.5 percent to $15.91 on Monday on optimism about possible changes there. However, Goldman Sachs publishing analyst Peter Appert, in a note to investors, said he was maintaining his longstanding "sell" rating on the stock as advertising moves to the Internet and other media.

"We do not see an easy or quick fix to what ails the company (and industry), other than continued investment to drive a migration of revenues and earnings to Internet-based operations," Appert said. "It is not clear to us what Harbinger and Firebrand bring to the table to address this challenge."

Harbinger had also disclosed on Friday that it intends to name directors at another newspaper company, Richmond, Va.-based Media General Inc. Both companies are controlled by families that hold supervoting stock, but in both cases the investors are seeking to nominate directors that are elected by non-family shareholders.

Firebrand Partners' founder Scott Galloway said in his letter that he and Harbinger had no intention of changing the Times' two-class share structure, which allows the Sulzberger family to maintain control of the company.

But Galloway added that the current board, "while impressive in stature, has not been effective in inspiring the requisite bold action this media environment demands." …
The entire AP story is here.

I recently posted Will the NY Times’ Sulzbergers Sell? which included a link to John Ellis’ column at laying out reasons why the Times may be a takeover target and why the Sulzberger family, which has a controlling interest in the Times, might sell.

A few readers ask why someone would buy the Times given all the trouble the news industry is facing.

I’m no expert on the subject but I asked two people who are.

Both said they thought the NYT stock price was undervalued. They noted that in addition to its many media assets, the Times has extensive real estate holdings. They reasoned a buyer could sell off some of its assests, thereby recouping much of what it had paid out while still retaining the paper, most of its electronic assests and the brand name.

Take that for what it’s worth.

Now an open source question I hope one of you can help with: After I published the “Sulzberger Sell?” post someone sent me a link to a detailed article on the Times financial woes. I skimmed it and meant to return to it but lost the link.

I think the article was at Am. Spectator but I can’t find it.

Can anyone provide a link to it or one like it?


Tarheel Hawkeye said...

Does this qualify as a ray of sunshine through the darkening clouds??