Unfortunately for Bloomberg, the New York Times Still Isn’t for Sale

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NEW YORK - APRIL 21: Traffic moves along by The New York Times headquarters building April 21, 2011 in New York City. The New York Times profits fell 58 percent in the first quarter of 2011. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)
Photo: Ramin Talaie

The sale of the Washington Post to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the Boston Globe to Red Sox owner John Henry in the last week made the New York Times the country's last major newspaper owned by a family – and sparked rumors that the Ochs-Sulzberger clan might not keep that title for long. However, on Wednesday, New York Times Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. assured the paper's staffers that they won't become part of Michael Bloomberg's plan to keep himself occupied post-mayoralty. "Will our family seek to sell The Times?" Sulzberger said in a memo. "The answer to that is no. The Times is not for sale, and the trustees of the Ochs-Sulzberger Trust and the rest of the family are united in our commitment to work together with the company’s board, senior management and employees to lead The New York Times forward into our global and digital future."

While Bloomberg has repeatedly dismissed the idea that he has his eye on the Times, the rumors have persisted for years, thanks in part to anecdotes like this one reported last year by New York's Gabriel Sherman:

Years ago, while on a trip to Paris, [Bloomberg] asked a friend over breakfast, “Do you think I could buy the New York Times?” When the friend said it wasn’t sold in the hotel, he said, “No, do you think I could buy the Times?”

In the memo, Sulzberger said he's spoken to Post chairman and chief executive Don Graham about the decision to sell the paper to "someone who he and his family believe is best positioned to help it grow and thrive and compete in the global and digital marketplace." Sulzberger made it clear that his family does not feel it will need to turn the Times over to Bloomberg or any other mogul, citing the company's successful digital subscription model, "very strong cash flow," and the leadership of the paper's executive editor, Jill Abramson, and the editorial page editor, Andy Rosenthal.

Of course, it's possible that someday Bloomberg will make the Ochs-Sulzberger family an offer it can't refuse (Reuters reports Bezos paid four times what the Post is worth). But for the time being Bloomberg is said to prefer the Financial Times, if he does in fact decide to expand his media empire. When The Daily Beast asked Sulzberger about the mayor in an article published last week, he gave a brief answer that expressed his thinking much better than today's six-paragraph statement. "Imagine. People talk. What a shock," Sulzberger was quoted as saying. "The Times," he said, slapping his palm on the table, "is Not. For. Sale."