Monday, January 28, 2008

New York Times Inc.

New York Times Inc. has its annual shareholders' meeting in April.

Activist investors have indicated there will be a proxy fight. Two funds who've made those statements, Harbinger and Firebrand, now own between them 4.9% of the company's equity.

When these two firms buy a significant share, they're implying (a) we think the underlying assets are valuable, and (b) we think that existing management is depressing that value.

This isn't the first time Harbinger and Firebrand have worked together. They pushed for a change on the board of Gateway, a computer manufactuer, in 2006. As a result Scott Galloway, Firebrand's chief executive, ended up on that board.

I don't know how cause and effect work out here, but Gateway was acquired by a Taiwanese company, Acer, a year later. Did Galloway press for that? Will he press for NYT Inc. to put itself on the auction block too, if he ends up on their board? I don't know.

I do know, though, that newspaper-companies have been attractive takeover targets in the last two years.

So far the Harbinger/Firebrand forces seem to be emphasizing divestiture, not consolidation. They're suggesting that the NYT company owns too many non-core products.

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