April 20, 2006

Time For A New Publisher At The NYT

Arianna Huffington looks at growing pressure on the NYT's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger. She cites growing shareholder anger following the sale of Knight Ridder:
Such an outcome is extremely unlikely at the Times, which has a dual class stock structure that gives the Sulzberger family voting control over nine of the 13 seats on the company board.

But having three of the four biggest shareholders in the company withhold their votes (and one of them publicly question the performance and salaries of top management) must put extraordinary pressure on the family to consider making a change in management - i.e. finally address its Pinch problem.

Besides having to deal with unhappy shareholders, I hear the Sulzberger clan is also getting an earful from friends on the dinner party circuit from New York to Paris (where a possible contender for Sulzberger's job, Michael Golden, is now publisher of the International Herald Tribune). They are troubled by the Times Company's plummeting stock price (down 47 percent since January 2004, 11 points worse than the industry average), the ongoing problems in the Times newsroom, and the ongoing Judy Miller/Scooter Libby embarrassment.

The problems are only exacerbated by the imperiousness of Sulzberger who, sources tell me, waited months before finally deigning to listen to Morgan Stanley's concerns.

The imperiousness appears to be contagious. Seelye's story included this gem: "The Times Company declined to comment on the vote." Stonewalled by your own ownership. What next, two word "No comment" editorials?

The Times' two-tiered stock structure can only insulate the Sulzberger clan up to a point. If the 28 percent uprising becomes a 48 percent revolution, will the Times Company -- and the Sulzberger family -- still be able to remain silent?


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