November 22, 2006
New York Times Response to Jenkins
Bill Keller, the Executive Editor of the New York Times, wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal ("Misrepresented, Insulted and Belittled") complaining about a piece by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., on the corporate structure of the New York Times. As noted here, the New York Times is controlled by a family trust that owns most all the company's Class B stock. Class B stock owners control a majority of the seats on the board. Ninety-nine percent of the shares outstanding are Class A stock (of which 85% are owned by the public; 15% owned by the family). In other words, the New York Times is controlled by a minority owner (and a very small minority owner at that). Recently the paper has been a financial disaster, with declining revenue and stock price. The answer of Mr. Keller is predictable: The family is committed to serious journalism and majority owners (which might be "hedge funds") would not be. The owners of Time magazine made the same argument in defeating a takeover bid by Paramount Communications some time ago. So according to the paper's opinion writers, shareholder power may be a good corrective for our misbehaving oil companies but it is apparently an anathema to our pristine news media companies.
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