New York Times Co. executives are bragging about their website and talking about selling off pieces of the company, possibly in response to pressure from two hedge funds that now control around 19 percent of the company and are in talks about seating directors to the company board. Speaking at a Bear Stearns conference, New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson said the paper launched 50 — 50! — blogs over the past 12 months and that the paper's crowd-leading Eliot Spitzer coverage drove a 60 percent Web traffic increase. Times CFO James Follo, meanwhile, "said the company frequently evaluates how it is allocating its resources and would consider any asset sale that would be prudent for investors," according to the AP. "'We love all our assets but we're not married to any one of them,' Follo said. The New York Times newspaper was the sole asset he said was off the table." The Times' selloff talk is probably related to investor questions about whether the company is focused enough, an issue raised in the Times on Monday by an anonymous "person close to" the hedge funds pressuring Times Co.:
Executives of the hedge funds would not state their criticism for publication, but a person close to them said: "I think it's safe to say that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. It's not clear how a newspaper, a baseball team and Midtown real estate add value to one another."
Here are some of the assets the Times' source was referring to, all of which could potentially be sold off:
- The Boston Globe
- The Boston Red Sox
- The International Herald Tribune
- The Times' new Manhattan headquarters building
Times Co.'s talk about selling assets does not necessarily mean it is seriously considering doing so. If the company ruled out major asset sales, it would face serious charges of being a poor shareholder fiduciary.