Times Family Pushes Back

Apparently, the controlling Ochs-Sulzberger family of New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) does not intend to budge. The family has been under some pressure to do away with the company's dual-class share structure, especially from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, which owns 7.6% of Times' shares.

The structure permits the Ochs-Sulzbergers to control nine of the 13 Times board seats, despite owning a far smaller proportion of outstanding shares. Last month, London-based Hassan Elmasry, who supervises MSIM, called for providing equal representation to all shareholders in the company.

Speaking Wednesday at the Credit Suisse media conference, Times CEO Janet Robinson said that the family "has no intention of opening any doors to the action that is tearing at the heart of some of the other great journalistic institutions of our country." In November, Elmasry had requested that shareholders approve a resolution giving each share of the company's stock one vote.

On Tuesday, Robinson also stated that the company expects its Internet revenues to climb by 30% next year. With this segment, which includes About.com and NYTimes.com, expected to deliver about $270 million to the company's top line this year, the increase would be in the vicinity of $80 million. However, with analysts expecting Times to generate between $3.32 billion and $3.34 billion in revenues over the next couple of years, the gain in Internet revenues would represent an essentially minuscule portion of the total, and declines in the core business could easily offset any gains.

Robinson also was asked at the Credit Suisse conference -- as was another Times executive on Tuesday -- whether the Boston Globe newspaper typically is included in Times' asset reviews, and whether the company would consider selling the paper. Both executives responded that Times management is perpetually evaluating the company's portfolio of properties, but noted that the Globe is considered an important asset. Times has been approached by a group led by former General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) CEO Jack Welch regarding a possible sale of the Globe to the group.

Times, along with Tribune (NYSE: TRB  ) and several other major media companies, has found itself under pressure as a result of declining advertising revenues. Investors have mulled a number of potential endgames for big newspaper firms, including private-equity buyouts. Clear Channel Communications (NYSE: CCU  ) has reached such an agreement; Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners will acquire it for $18.7 billion.

My fearless advice to Foolish investors is to avoid the media companies, whose fortunes have sagged over the past couple of years, and instead concentrate on the more robust areas of the media space.

New York Times is aMotley Fool Income Investorrecommendation. Try out our dividend-focused newsletter service free for 30 days.

Fool contributorDavid Lee Smithdoes not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments.


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