March 20, 2023

Media Decoder Blog: Times Co. Discloses Pay Package for Incoming C.E.O.

The New York Times Company is paying its new chief executive, Mark Thompson, an annual salary of $1 million and an immediate signing bonus valued at $3 million.

The compensation package was detailed in securities filings released on Friday morning. In addition to the signing bonus — which will be paid in stock and stock options — Mr. Thompson is eligible for an annual bonus of $1 million.

He is also eligible to receive a separate $3 million bonus for 2013 for meeting long-term incentives, to be paid out over three years.

The bonus payments are not guaranteed unless Mr. Thompson meets certain goals set by the company.

Except for the signing bonus, Mr. Thompson’s compensation is much the same as that of his predecessor, Janet L. Robinson, in terms of annual salary and bonus eligibility. Ms. Robinson left the company in December.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., The Times’s publisher, announced Mr. Thompson’s appointment Tuesday afternoon, concluding an extensive search. Mr. Thompson had previously been the director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation, but had stated his intention to leave the job after the London Olympics, which ended on Sunday.

Mr. Thompson was involved in expanding the BBC’s digital and global presence, areas that have become more crucial to the Times Company’s strategy in the face of significant challenges to the print newspaper. Mr. Sulzberger had made clear his intention to select someone with deep digital knowledge and experience across a variety of platforms. After Mr. Thompson arrived from London on Tuesday afternoon, he said in an interview that “it’s a privilege” to run the organization and called its newsroom “the envy of the world.”

Mr. Thompson is expected to start his job in November.

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Media Decoder Blog: Times Co. Names Mark Thompson Chief Executive

Mark Thompson.

The New York Times Company has namedMark Thompson, the departing director general of theBritish Broadcasting Corporation, as its new president and chief executive.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman ofthe TimesCompany and the newspaper’s publisher, announced the appointment late Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Thompson, 55, will join the company in November. In addition to his executive roles, he will also sit on the board.

In choosing Mr. Thompson, a veteran of television who has spent nearly his entire career at the BBC, The Times reached outside its own company, its own industry and even its own country to find a leader to guide it in an uncharted digital future.

“We have people who understand print very well, the best in the business,” Mr. Sulzberger said in the interview. “We have people who understand advertising well, the best in the business. But our future is on to video, to social, to mobile. It doesn’t mirror what we’ve done. It broadens what we are going to do.”

Mr. Thompson who just arrived on Tuesday afternoon fromLondon, said that he had been “a reader of The New York Times for decades” and said he was honored to take the new position.

“It’s a privilege,” he said. “What we’ve got in The New York Times is an outstanding newsroom,” calling it “the envy of the world.”

The Times has been without a chief executive since Janet Robinson left in December 2011. Since then, Mr. Sulzberger has said the company was looking for a candidate with experience in the digital world and across multiple platforms.

Mr. Thompson’s reign at the BBC has largely been categorized as one of digital expansion and as having an emphasis on developing the BBC internationally. He championed the BBC’s collaboration in YouView, a joint venture with ITV, Channel 4 and other channels, that provides digital TV and many of BBC’s international for-profit ventures, like BBC America. He has also overseen several rounds of cost-cutting at the corporation, which depends largely on public support (through license fees), not advertising, for its operating budget.

Mr. Thompson’s candidacy had been rumored for several months. He was regarded as an unorthodox choice not just because he was from television but because he worked for a public broadcaster and had no experience running a publicly traded concern like the Times Company. He also rose through the editorial ranks of the BBC, whereas publishers in theUnited Statestypically emerge from the business side.

“I think of myself as a journalist,” Mr. Thompson said. “I spent many of my years as a working journalist.” He did not say whether he would favor video over other components of The Times like apps or social media. “These are all going to be important,” he said.

The search for a new chief executive was led by the firm Spencer Stuart. Mr. Sulzberger declined to provide details about the other candidates except to say that the board interviewed all of the finalists and he met with the candidates privately before a decision was made.

John Janedis, a research analyst with UBS, said that finding the right chief executive for the Times Company was a tall order. “They would have to have the respect of the newsroom and a digital background,” he said. “On a practical level, it was hard to find deep roots in both of those things. In Mark, I guess those boxes get checked.”

Craig Huber, an independent research analyst with Huber Research Partners, cautioned that Mr. Thompson’s adjustment to a company driven by ad and circulation revenue would take time.

“The New York Times has to prove itself every day to keep its subscribers and advertisers,” he said. “The BBC certainly doesn’t in the U.K.”

Mr. Thompson had said he would step down from his current position after the London Olympics, which ended Sunday. He leaves the BBC on a high point, particularly in the news organization’s digital ventures. The BBC reported that a total of 55 million viewers logged onto its sports Web site during the Olympic Games held in London from July 27 to Aug. 12. The Web site averaged about 9.5 million visitors each day of the Olympics.

“If you look at what the BBC has done with digital, especially in coverage of the Olympics and interactive, it’s been extremely good,” said Ian Whittaker, a media analyst at Liberum Capital in London. He added: “Having said that, Mark Thompson has never had to scrap for advertising revenue or circulation revenues.”

A graduate of theUniversity of Oxford’s Merton College, Mr. Thompson first joined the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee. After working as an editor on the BBC’s flagship “Nine O’Clock News” and the news program “Panorama,” he graduated to overseeing the separate channel BBC2 and serving as the BBC’s director of national and regional broadcasting. In 2000, he became the BBC’s director of television.

After a two-year stint as chief executive ofBritain’s Channel 4, he returned to serve as BBC Worldwide’s director general in 2004 and added chairman to his title this year. As director general, he oversaw 20,000 employees globally and 400,000 hours of programming, according to the BBC Web site.

Mr. Thompson has frequently weighed in on controversies about the BBC’s coverage. In 2010, he told The New Statesman, a current affairs magazine, that in the past, particularly during the Thatcher years, the BBC had a “massive” left-leaning bias, but added that the bias no longer existed. In June, the BBC fielded more than 4,000 complaints about its coverage of the queen’s diamond jubilee. Mr. Thompson apologized for “some inaccuracies in the commentary that we shouldn’t have had.”

Mr. Thompson is described by friends as being both a committed journalist and an astute politician. One London friend who did not want to discuss Mr. Thompson for attribution said he was extremely intellectual, a quality that can at times come across as remote or condescending.

Mr. Thompson lives inOxfordwith his wife, the American-born Jane Blumberg. They have three children. According to the BBC’s annual report, Mr. Thompson earned £622,000 (about $962,000) in the 2011 fiscal year.

Mr. Thompson will be joining the Times company as it continues to face challenges posed by changing reader habits and a shifting advertising market. Last month, it reported a net loss of $88 million for the second quarter of 2012. A positive sign has been the success of its digital subscription strategy, which has so far attracted 509,000 paid subscribers to the Web site, e-reader and other digital editions of The Times and The International Herald Tribune. “They’re much more subscription-driven than I think people give themcreditfor,” Mr. Janedis said.

Shares in the company closed up slightly on Tuesday at $9.09.

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Yahoo’s 4th-Quarter Income Falls 5%

“No fireworks here,” said Colin Gillis an analyst with BGC Financial. “It was a lackluster quarter.”

The company made no mention of a new strategic direction in what was the first earnings announcement under Scott Thompson, Yahoo’s new chief executive. The announcement was timed just three weeks into Mr. Thompson’s term as chief executive and one week after Yahoo’s co-founder, Jerry Yang, stepped down from the board.

It also occurred as Yahoo’s board underwent a strategic review that began in September that includes selling its Asian assets.

But the company made no mention of the deal in its earnings call with analysts. “The work is ongoing,” Mr. Thompson said in the conference call. “I believe there is big potential at Yahoo, much bigger than the outside world envisions today.”

Yahoo increased its operating income 10 percent from the same quarter a year ago, but reported declining revenue and profit for the second consecutive quarter. The company’s net income in the fourth quarter dropped 5 percent, to $296 million, or 24 cents a share, from the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell 3 percent, to $1.17 billion, excluding commissions paid to Yahoo’s partners. Wall Street analysts had expected 24 cents a share, but slightly higher revenue of $1.19 million, according to a survey of analysts by Zacks Investment Research.

The company has been trying to cut costs and build on its strength in online editorial content. With 702 million monthly users, Yahoo remains the most trafficked news site online. But, as Mr. Thompson acknowledged Tuesday, “the sheer number of users will not get us to where we need to be. We need to improve the quality of customer experiences.”

To that end, the company announced a partnership with ABC to feature ABC News content on the Yahoo home page in October. But the biggest element of that turnaround effort, Yahoo’s display advertising business, fell 4 percent, to $546 million, compared with the same quarter a year ago. Meanwhile, the overall market for display advertising in the United States grew 23.5 percent, to $9.2 billion last quarter, according to eMarketer.

Display advertising had traditionally been one of the company’s bright spots, but Yahoo continues to lose share to Facebook and Google. Yahoo’s share of the online ad market declined 11 percent last year, down from 13.3 percent in 2010. While Google’s share grew to 40.8 percent, from 38.5 percent, and Facebook’s share reached 6.4 percent, from 4.6 percent for the same period, according to eMarketer.

“Getting our display advertising business on the right course is what I spend all my waking moments thinking about,” Mr. Thompson said in the call, though he did not offer any specifics.

Yahoo’s search business also contracted for the quarter. It is operated by Microsoft under an agreement that extends to March 2013. Revenue from search, after payments to Microsoft and others, fell 3 percent, to $376 million.

Mr. Thompson hinted that much of the company’s future innovation might come from the wealth of data it has on its 702 million users.

“The data is very, very impressive,” he said. “If you believe data and great technology and great technologists can begin to predict what’s in a user’s mind, having that data to start from is a huge advantage. You’ll see some interesting, data-oriented experiences coming out sooner versus later.”

Yahoo’s board has faced mounting pressure from activist investors, like Daniel Loeb of Third Point, to unlock shareholder value. The board had initially considered selling a minority stake to private equity suitors. It is now leaning toward a tax-efficient sale of its Asian assets to refocus on its core media assets in the United States where it has long suffered from declining revenue and an exodus of senior sales employees. Yahoo owns a 40 percent stake in Alibaba and a 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, valued at approximately $17 billion. Yahoo’s total market value is only slightly bigger at $19.5 billion.

The company is looking to sell its interests in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan in a complicated “cash-rich split” tax deal in which these companies would buy some other operating businesses and trade them to Yahoo in exchange for their own stock.

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Judge Orders Dismissal of Charges Against Strauss-Kahn

Prosecutors in the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, told Justice Michael J. Obus of State Supreme Court in Manhattan that they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt because of serious credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who had accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her as she entered his suite to clean it.

The dismissal brought some semblance of vindication to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, after his stunning arrest more than three months ago. He was taken into custody aboard an Air France jet at Kennedy International Airport and then paraded before news cameras, looking disheveled and in handcuffs.

For his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old Guinean immigrant, the result caps a precipitous fall. Prosecutors initially portrayed her as a credible and powerful witness, only to say that her myriad lies about her past — which included a convincing, emotional but ultimately fraudulent account of being gang raped by soldiers in Guinea — ended up undermining the case.

Ms. Diallo, who has made her identity public, still has a civil lawsuit pending against Mr. Strauss-Kahn for unspecified monetary damages, and her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, has been relentless in his assertion that Mr. Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted his client and that Mr. Vance’s office abandoned the case too soon.

Mr. Thompson made one last desperate attempt to keep the criminal case going, filing a motion on Monday asking that Mr. Vance’s office be disqualified. But about an hour before Tuesday’s hearing started, a court clerk handed out a one-page decision in which Justice Obus denied Mr. Thompson’s motion. However, Mr. Thompson has appealed the decision, which led to Justice Obus’s staying the dismissal.

After the hearing, Mr. Strauss-Kahn issued a statement, characterizing the past two and a half months as “a nightmare for me and my family,” and thanking the judge, his wife and family and other supporters.

He added that he was “obviously gratified that the district attorney agreed with my lawyers that this case had to be dismissed.”

“We appreciate his professionalism and that of the people who were involved in that decision,” he continued. Mr. Strauss-Kahn added that he looked forward to “returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life.”

The case has attracted international attention ever since the arrest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a leading figure in the Socialist Party who was considered a top candidate for the French presidency; each appearance in court has drawn a carnival-like atmosphere outside, with journalists and camera crews mixing with protesters. The scene on Tuesday was no exception: Well before Mr. Strauss-Kahn arrived at 11:03 a.m., about three dozen protesters gathered. The bulk of the sentiments were decidedly against Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

There were chants (“D.S.K., shame on you,” and “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, no means no”). There were placards (“All rape victims deserve a fair trial,” “Stop victim blaming of rape victims” and one with an illustration of a police officer admonishing a top-hatted plutocrat and the slogan “Go to jail”).

And there were a few speeches in which people condemned Mr. Strauss-Kahn as a serial sexual abuser and criticized Mr. Vance for ending the case against him.

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

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