Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Will Control the New York Times?

Sources: Geffen made an offer for hedge fund's big stake

Every day for months now, pundits and peanut gallery members have weighed in on the subject of what The New York Times might do to save itself. The prevailing wisdom is that the Times - arguably the most influential and well-regarded newspaper on the planet - is in peril of disappearing, and jeez, if the Grey Lady can't survive, who will, and what does that portend for the future of journalism? But that's an overstated view - in reality, the Times newspaper is holding up better than many of its competitors amid the media meltdown, and the company's problems are largely corporate in nature. So a better question is: who might end up controlling the newspaper and what will they do with it?

Just in the past several weeks, two overtures involving the largest block of The New York Times Co. shares outstanding and two of the biggest names in media and technology offer a glimpse at the intrigue surrounding the company. Last month, sources tell me, former Hollywood mogul David Geffen made an offer to buy the 19% stake in the Times held by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, but no deal was struck. (Geffen and Harbinger declined to comment.). And a few weeks before that, Scott Galloway, a Web entrepreneur and New York University Business School professor who is one of two Harbinger appointees on the Times board, made an overture to Google co-founder Larry Page about Google buying the Times Co. Even though Google CEO Eric Schmidt has publicly lamented the state of the newspaper industry and dismissed the notion of Google investing in it, people involved said the company looked seriously at the opportunity before deciding to pass. [Click for MORE]

  • The posts this afternoon, based on an unnamed source "close to the negotiation," that the deal fell through because Geffen and the fund could not agree on a price.
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