A Brief Rant Occasioned By Talk of a Potential Takeover Attempt at the New York Times Co.


The soon-to-be-former Times Building.Photo: AP

Speaking of loving the Times, this seems as good a time as any to make a few points about Hank Greenberg, dual-class ownership structures, that prig Hassan Elmasry at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and the great, good benevolence of the Ochs-Sulzberger family. It’s simple, really: Notwithstanding whatever noise to the contrary you’ve been hearing lately, the New York Times Co. will not be sold. Say it again, together: The Times Co. will not be sold. The Sulzbergers have all the power, and — much as one might like to mock their current leader, Arthur Jr., and much as he may have made a series of a stupid strategic decisions — they’re not going to let anyone else buy it.

And that’s a good thing.

What newspaper do you read, Elmasry, while you’re busy withholding your votes for the board-of-directors slate in protest of the dual-class stock structure? And what do you read, Greenberg, while you’re either buying or not buying huge numbers of Times Co. shares? Do you read the high-margin USA Today? The high-margin Chicago Tribune? Of course you don’t. You read the dual-class, family-controlled New York Times (or the dual-class, family-controlled Wall Street Journal). The Sulzberger family is arguably the greatest force for quality journalism in the United States, if not in the world, and the thing is, you know that. So just go away, please. Buy a different stock if you want better returns. Buy a different stock if you want better corporate governance. But leave this one alone. Because it is what it is, it is what it has always been (the two classes existed when you first bought in, didn’t they, Elmasry?), and it’s the company behind just about the only newspaper worth reading. Don’t screw that up.

Now please let us go back to being glib and superficial about such matters. This earnestness fits poorly.

Earlier: The ‘Times’ Answers Our Financial Questions