Some Times staffers think the brightest of the young family lights could be David Perpich, son of Arthur’s sister Cathy. A Harvard M.B.A. who helped run a D.J.-training school called Scratch D.J. Academy (it’s still in business), Perpich applied to work at the paper in 2007 after an internship at Times-owned About.com. But he was conflicted over whether to join the Times or pursue a career in consulting. In the end, he decided against the paper and took a job at technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
Few doubt that Sulzberger would like to eventually hand the reins of the paper to his 28-year-old son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, keeping control of the paper in his father’s family line. In the 1992 book The Girls in the Balcony, which documented a sex-discrimination suit against the Times, author Nan Robertson quotes Sulzberger telling a female executive at the paper, “I want to leave my son a different newspaper from the one I’m inheriting.” (It wasn’t until later that the executive thought to point out that Sulzberger has a daughter as well.)
Annie Sulzberger shows little interest in the Times, pursuing a career in art preservation while “aspiring to be a Daily Show correspondent,” according to her Friendster page (which also features a photo of her and her brother smoking a hookah while watching a Woody Allen film). A college friend from Brown, Dennis Kwan, says Annie was always circumspect about her identity as a Times heiress. “She tried to distance herself from it,” he says. She saw it as a “burden” because “people would talk about it.”
But Arthur III has shown promise as a newspaper reporter at The Oregonian, in Portland, where he recently broke a series of stories about a local sheriff who had an affair. His interest in journalism is no guarantee that he’ll be interested in following in his father’s footsteps, however. One family intimate notes that Arthur III is close to his mother, and his parents’ recent separation might complicate his relationship with his father. “Gail is really hurt,” says a family friend of the deeply acrimonious divorce that has upset the entire family. “She was taken aback by it. She’s going to have a very difficult recovery.” If Arthur III is to be the next Sulzberger to pull the proverbial sword from the stone—and it’s a Camelot metaphor the family employs, with a statuette of a sword-in-stone on Sulzberger Jr.’s desk—it could be an issue, says the family friend.
One thing that would cause the fifth generation to take a sudden interest in the family business is a decrease in trust income. “Once that dividend is cut, then all hell will break loose,” says a former Times executive. “Because that’s what the family lives on. Then it’s over. It’s going to unravel. They’re going to be forced to look for external professional management to run that company.” In a brief phone call, Stephen Golden (cousin of Arthur Jr., brother of Michael, father of Dave) cautioned against assuming that the younger relatives’ interests and careers away from the newspaper mean that they aren’t engaged with its plight. “If you follow that through, what you end up with is an assumption, you say that everyone who is not engaged in the paper is unconcerned. That’s a dangerous assumption.”
Indeed, some of the family’s recent moves make it seem as if Sulzberger’s cousins and second-cousins are not as passive as has long been thought. Just as Sulzberger’s marriage was unraveling earlier this year (a matter of family discussion for at least six months before it became public), Michael Golden, the only other cousin in a position to run the company, returned to New York from Paris. While they maintain a cordial relationship, Golden is more conservative and mild-mannered than his prickly cousin, who sometimes criticizes Golden in front of surprised staffers, according to a person who has witnessed it. Golden still maintains the vice-chairman title and ostensibly oversees international operations but is, according to a person who knows him, “fishing for something to do” while he sits in an office down the hall from Sulzberger. Meanwhile, Dan Cohen, Sulzberger’s closest confidant, has also returned to influence after a period of relative remove, taking a seat on the company’s board of directors in 2007—at the peak of the Morgan Stanley battle.
Significantly, the board of trustees also includes for the first time a member of the fifth generation, Carolyn Greenspon, a 40-year-old social worker who lives in Massachusetts. Greenspon replaced her mother, Jacqueline Hays Dryfoos, on the trust board and recently began attending family wealth-management conferences. Carolyn also happens to be the sister of Michael Greenspon, making the siblings a significant family presence at the paper.