NYT needs to change the role of shareholders

It’s great that the market has a kind of bottoms-up thing where shareholders have a say in the management, but I think that more often than naught it’s the shareholders that really mess things up. I’m not against capitalism or free trade– I just think that sometimes people who run the business should be given more responsibility to make their own decisions, which may in certain cases, not necessarily coincide with the thoughts of the shareholders.

A recent NYT article on how a Mexican billionaire is thinking of investing in the NYT got me really angry, because according to the alleged deal, Mr. Carlos Slim Helu “would invest $250 million in the form of 10-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares… As part of Mr. Slim’s investment, which resembles a loan, he is expected to get a special annual dividend, perhaps as high as 10 percent or more on this investment.”

Why the *** is the NYT paying dividends when the company’s finances are staggering? I’m sure the Sulzbergers are enjoying their dividends, but now is really the time to cut those dividends and put the investment back into the company so that it stays afloat. I mean, look at the profit Google is making and it doesn’t have dividends. You may argue that Google is a tech company, but now that media is inevitably linked to technology, can one argue that the Times is not a tech company (or that Google is not a media company?)

Shareholders are about short-term benefits– those benefits could be days, months, perhaps years. But management should look at the company from a more sustainable standpoint– especially if it’s a media company like the NYT. I know many people think Rupert Murdoch is evil, but hey, that guy has a vision, and it’s not all about money. Think of the makings of the great media companies, the great film production houses… and all of those that succeeded had a very strong leader at the helm. When it comes to media, it matters who is steering, and for the Times, the biggest problem is that it doesn’t have that visionary leader. No amount of money is going to save the Times if it continues its current path.

Despite the Times’ strong statement to “go digital,” its plans for new digital business operations are very vague and general and do not seem to utilize all of its existing resources. In an analysis of the Times’ annual report, I found that the company was successful in reporting how they cut costs, but failed to present any structured plans for the group’s future. It does not tap into the potential synergy effects that its groups could have, nor explore the possibilities of how its acquisitions and other investments play into the bigger strategy. It also addresses potential problems regarding the Class B stock owned through a family trust, but doesn’t explain what kind of influence the family actually has, or draw om this situation.

When seeking new businesses, the Times must always keep their mission in mind because giving up on those values for short-term profits will sever their customers’ loyalty and lead to long-term losses that will be difficult to recover. The New York Times should especially be careful, because now, although their profits aren’t as high as before, they still have a strong patronage-perhaps one that is even stronger than before-but a couple wrong steps could easily break that down.

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