March 23, 2023

Times Chairman Sells a Portion of His Stock

Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, sold 50,000 shares of his company’s stock last week, a day after declaring that the family-owned newspaper was not for sale.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released on Monday evening, Mr. Sulzberger sold 50,000 shares at $12 a share on Aug. 8. The filing noted that Mr. Sulzberger continued to own 173,675 Class A shares in company stock.

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The New York Times Company, said that the stock sale “is part of Arthur’s normal estate planning.” She said that the 50,000 shares represented a small percentage of his holdings, which in addition to Class A shares include stock options and shares held in a family trust.

“Personally, he is still very invested in Times Company stock,” Ms. Murphy said.

The Times Company has a dual share structure: Class A stock, which is publicly traded, and a special class of stock, Class B, that allows the Sulzbergers to elect about 70 percent of the company’s board.

Mr. Sulzberger’s sale followed a week of upheaval in the newspaper industry, in which The Times sold The Boston Globe to John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, and the Graham family announced that after 80 years it was selling The Washington Post to Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of Amazon.

After those sales, there was speculation among media analysts that Mr. Sulzberger and his relatives would follow suit and consider selling The Times. The Times is one of the last major American newspapers run by a family.

But last Wednesday, Mr. Sulzberger and Michael Golden, the company’s vice chairman and Mr. Sulzberger’s first cousin, issued a statement stressing that they had no plans to sell The Times. The most recent earnings released by the Times Company show that it swung to a profit in the second quarter, with gains in digital subscriptions, though it still faced a challenging advertising market.

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Red Sox Owner’s Purchase of Boston Globe Worries Journalists

“This was the last circumstance anyone would want,” Ryan said Saturday of Henry’s purchase of The Globe and other media properties from The New York Times Company for $70 million. “It’s nothing anyone would wish. It’s scary, to say the least, for all involved.”

The news that Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, was acquiring The Globe, New England’s largest newspaper, resonated most profoundly in its sports department, where this reporter worked for many years.

“We don’t know what the new situation is going to be in terms of hierarchy, but I would hope to be able to continue to cover the Red Sox the way we always have, “ the sports editor, Joe Sullivan, said.

Acknowledging the potential conflict of interest, Sullivan said, “It will be there, hanging in the air.” He said the newspaper might need to include disclaimers when writing about Henry, as it did when The Times had an ownership stake in the team for 10 years. The Times sold its final stake in the group in 2012.

Dan Shaughnessy, The Globe’s lead sports columnist, has written critically about Henry since he became the principal owner of the Red Sox in 2002.

“There’s an inherent conflict of interest which no one can do anything about,” Shaughnessy said. “All we can hope for is that everyone is allowed to do his job professionally and that we are able to keep our independence.”

Shaughnessy and the former Red Sox manager Terry Francona wrote a book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” which detailed Francona’s ugly exit from the team after its collapse in September 2011. The book was highly critical of the Red Sox ownership group, and Shaughnessy said it was “not exactly a party-starter” for Henry.

In his Globe column on Saturday, Shaughnessy, tongue-in-cheek, told his readers that “John Henry’s greatness has been vastly underappreciated.”

Henry is the principal owner of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and his Fenway Sports Group owns 80 percent of the New England Sports Network as well as the English soccer club Liverpool and a Nascar Sprint Cup team. The Miami Heat’s LeBron James is a minority stakeholder in the sports group.

The Red Sox have received mostly positive coverage in The Globe since Henry’s group bought the team. Much of that is because of the team’s success; the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 (ending an 86-year drought) and again in 2007. But there were occasions when Globe coverage appeared to be a bit over the top, as in July 2007 when the acquisition of Kevin Garnett by the Boston Celtics was paired equally on the front of the Globe sports section with the Red Sox’ acquisition of the over-the-hill reliever Eric Gagne.

The team’s stunning collapse in September 2011 was followed by a Globe investigative piece by Bob Hohler, revealing that pitchers John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester had been eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. Hohler also wrote that management had concerns that Francona’s deteriorating marriage and his use of painkillers may have affected his performance.

In a radio interview at the time, Henry said of the article, “It’s reprehensible that it was written about in the first place.”

Henry would now be in a position to kill such an article, which concerns Ryan, who retired from The Globe in 2012 but who has a verbal agreement to write up to 40 columns in 2013.

“Anyone in this situation has to look at it with a great deal of trepidation,” Ryan said. “It’s uncomfortable and it puts the Globe sports department, especially the Red Sox writers, in a potentially uncompromising position.”

Gordon Edes covered the Red Sox and baseball for The Globe from 1997 to 2008. He recalled the abuse that Chicago Tribune writers took when their newspaper owned the Chicago Cubs, adding: “But I think this is different. This isn’t the newspaper owning the team. This is the team owning the newspaper.”

Edes, who now covers the Red Sox for, added, “As someone who competes against The Globe, it is going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out. “

Edes said he did not receive preferential treatment from the Red Sox when he was at The Globe and The Times had an ownership stake in the team.

“I wish I did,” he said. “But this is different. If I’m him, I’m going to make sure my newspaper gets the story.”

Among those weighing in on the conflict of interest issue was Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University. In a blog item that ran on The Huffington Post, Kennedy wrote, “The real issue is not how The Globe covers the Red Sox as a baseball team but rather how it manages the tricky task of reporting on a major business and civic organization that’s run by the paper’s new owner.”

Under Henry’s stewardship, the Red Sox cut a favorable licensing deal with the City of Boston to use the streets surrounding Fenway Park on game days, making “tens of millions of dollars.” The Globe reported on this sweetheart deal earlier this year. Would Henry allow such a piece to run as the newspaper’s owner?

Kevin Paul Dupont, The Globe’s Hall of Fame hockey writer, said he was “among those who want the business to be saved and resurrected, and I hope he’s the guy.”

“We’ve all been looking for someone who has the plan,” he said of Henry. “I hope it’s him.”

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BBC to Sell Lonely Planet Travel Guidebooks

In 2007, when the British Broadcasting Corp. bought the Lonely Planet travel guidebooks, it drew criticism from rivals for using public money to expand into areas better left to the private sector.

On Tuesday, as the BBC confirmed plans to sell Lonely Planet to a reclusive American billionaire, it drew internal scrutiny — this time for losing public money on the sale.

BBC Worldwide, an arm of the public broadcaster than runs many of its international and for-profit operations, said Tuesday that it had agreed to sell the series to NC2 Media, a company controlled by Brad Kelley, a businessman from Kentucky who made a fortune in tobacco and later turned his attention to real estate and other interests.

The price, £51.5 million, or $77.3 million, was nearly £80 million below the £130 million that the BBC paid for Lonely Planet in two stages. The scale of the loss prompted the BBC Trust, a panel that oversees the broadcaster, to call on the executive arm of the BBC to “commission a review of lessons learnt and report to the Trust with its findings.”

“Although this did not prove to be a good commercial investment, Worldwide is a very successful business, and at the time of purchase there was a credible rationale for this deal,” Diane Coyle, vice chairwoman of the trust, said in a statement.

At the time of the purchase, the BBC — then headed by Mark Thompson, who is now chief executive of The New York Times Company — talked about extending the Lonely Planet brand into new areas, including digital outlets. But publishers of traditional travel guidebooks have struggled to compete with travel sites on the Web, like TripAdvisor.

Meanwhile, rivals of the BBC complained that the broadcaster had no business moving into new areas at a time when some commercial media companies have struggled with the challenge of the Internet.

In 2009, James Murdoch, then the head of the European and Asian operations of News Corporation, described the BBC’s purchase as a “particularly egregious example of the expansion of the state.” In addition to its other media holdings, News Corporation is the largest shareholder in British Sky Broadcasting, a pay-TV company that competes with the BBC.

The BBC has been scaling back since it agreed to a reduction in its public funding — which comes from a license fee on television-owning households — in 2010.

“Lonely Planet has increased its presence in digital, magazine publishing and emerging markets whilst also growing its global market share, despite difficult economic conditions,” said Paul Dempsey, interim chief executive of BBC Worldwide, in a statement. “However, we have also recognized that it no longer fits with our plans to put BBC brands at the heart of our business and have decided to sell the company.”

Despite the challenges facing travel publishers, the BBC said Lonely Planet is the biggest travel guidebook series in the United States, Britain and Australia, where the title was founded in 1973 as a bible for backpackers. It said 120 million books have been published in 11 languages, and 120 million people visit its Web sites annually.

“The challenge and promise before us is to marry the world’s greatest travel information and guidebook company with the limitless potential of 21st-century digital technology,” Daniel Houghton, executive director of NC2 Media, said in a statement. “If we can do this, and I believe we can, we can build a business that, while remaining true to the things that made Lonely Planet great in the past, promises to make it even greater in the future.”

The purchase is a big expansion of Mr. Kelley’s media holdings; he also has an investment in OutWild TV, a Web site that shows travel videos. Mr. Kelley is said to be one of the largest private landowners in the United States, with millions of acres of ranch land in Texas and other states.

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Mexican Leaders Propose Telecommunications Overhaul

The proposal would give broad new powers to regulators who have been frustrated in their attempts to reduce the market power of América Móvil, which is controlled by the billionaire Carlos Slim Helú.

Most important, it would allow regulators to require a company with control of a majority of the market to divest some assets or submit to special rules to prevent it from abusing its market dominance.

América Móvil controls about 80 percent of Mexico’s fixed lines, about 70 percent of its mobile lines and 74 percent of its fixed-line Internet connections, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. (Mr. Slim owns about 8 percent of The New York Times Company.)

A study released last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that the lack of competition in telecommunications costs the economy about $25 billion a year. The study noted that Mexico was at the bottom of the rankings among O.E.C.D. countries in penetration for fixed, mobile and broadband markets. Profit margins for América Móvil are much higher than the O.E.C.D. average, and the company invests less per person than companies in any other country.

“The government is sending a clear signal that its way of dealing with the sector is very different,” said Jana Palacios Prieto, a telecommunications expert at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness.

Through a combination of legal challenges and lobbying, América Móvil’s lawyers have managed to block or delay regulation that might chip away at the company’s market share and its margins.

“We are two to three decades behind other countries,” said Ernesto Piedras, the director general of the Competitive Intelligence Unit, a telecommunications consulting firm. “We have a regulatory outlook that is so poorly enforced that practically any modification will leave us better off.”

The measures announced Monday also aim to curtail the market dominance of Mexico’s broadcast duopoly: Televisa, which is controlled by Emilio Azcárraga Jean, and TV Azteca, which between them control almost the entire television market. The proposal envisions auctioning off two new private television networks, a plan the broadcasters have fought for years.

Televisa said in a statement that it welcomed more competition, while América Móvil did not have an immediate comment.

The measures that were announced on Monday must still clear a series of legislative hurdles. The first step is for Congress and state assemblies to approve a constitutional reform. Because the changes were negotiated among Mr. Peña Nieto’s top aides and leaders of the three main political parties, they are expected to pass.

Then Congress must rewrite several laws to put those changes into effect. That, analysts say, is when the industry may find ways to water down some of the measures.

Among the proposals announced on Monday is one that would lift the limit on foreign investment in telecommunications to 100 percent from 49 percent. The law would give full autonomy to Mexico’s Federal Competition Commission, which has struggled to impose fines on América Móvil and tried unsuccessfully to force broadcasters to provide their free channels to pay TV competitors.

The changes would also create a new body over the next year with broad powers to regulate telecommunications companies, including the possibility of ordering them to divest assets to prevent them from exercising control over the market.

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Asset Sales Help Quarterly Profit at Times Company

The New York Times Company reported a big jump in fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, largely because of gains from asset sales.

Net income was $176.9 million, or $1.14 a share, a 200 percent increase from $58.9 million, or 39 cents a share, in the period a year earlier.

The results were aided by a $164.6 million gain on the sale of the company’s stake in, a jobs search engine, and the sale of the About Group, the online resource company, which closed on the first day of the fourth quarter for $300 million. The sale of the About Group resulted in a total gain of $96.7 million, or $61.9 million after taxes.

Income from continuing operations rose to $117 million, compared with $51 million in the period a year earlier.

Total revenue for the quarter rose 5.2 percent, to $575.8 million. Over all, the company’s advertising revenue declined 3.1 percent. Print advertising at the company’s newspapers, which include The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune, shrank by 5.6 percent and digital advertising revenue across the company rose by 5.1 percent. Circulation revenue grew 16.1 percent.

For the entire year, the Times Company reported net income of $133 million, or 87 cents a share, compared with a loss of $39.7 million, or 26 cents a share, in the previous year.

Income from continuing operations rose to $159.7 million in 2012 from $51.9 million in 2011, or $1.04 per share up from 34 cents in 2011. Total revenue rose 1.9 percent, to $1.99 billion.

The past year marked the first time that circulation revenue surpassed advertising revenue. Circulation revenue grew by 10.4 percent, to $952.9 million, mainly from the growth in digital subscriptions and the rise in print circulation prices. Advertising for the year declined 5.9 percent, to $898.1 million.

The number of paid subscribers to the Web site, e-reader and other digital editions of The Times and The International Herald Tribune reached about 640,000 at the end of the fourth quarter, a 13 percent increase from the third quarter of 2012. Digital subscriptions to The Boston Globe and also grew, by 8 percent, to about 28,000 subscribers.

“The demonstrated willingness of users here and around the world to pay for the high quality journalism for which The New York Times and the company’s other titles are renowned will be a key building block in the strategy for growth, which we are currently developing and which I will have much more to say about later in the year,” said Mark Thompson, the president and chief executive of the Times Company.

The company expects advertising revenue to remain sluggish in the first quarter of 2013 and total circulation revenue to grow by “mid-single digits.” The company said in its release that it “expects to benefit from its digital subscription initiatives as well as from the print circulation price increase at The New York Times implemented in the first quarter of 2013.” The company also said it expects its first-quarter operating costs to decline.

The results followed several difficult quarters during which the company tried to streamline operations and expand its digital and video presence. In early December, The Times said the newsroom needed to contribute to the company’s cost-cutting efforts and announced it was seeking 30 managers to accept buyout packages. The company also allowed employees represented by the Newspaper Guild to volunteer for buyout packages.

In a memo that Jill Abramson, the executive editor, wrote to the staff last week, she said that she had received enough volunteers that layoffs were kept to a handful. She also announced plans to restructure the masthead. On Wednesday, the paper also announced that it had hired Rebecca Howard from the AOL Huffington Post Media Group to become the new general manager of the video production unit.

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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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