One of the most interesting media stories of the past few months has involved the stockholders of the New York Times. In response to a free-falling stock price, Morgan Stanley portfolio manager Hassan Elmasry launched a campaign to oust the NYT’s inept management. The Wall Street Journal profiles Elmasry today:
After Mr. Elmasry went public with his campaign, Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack fielded calls about the Times from former General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch and former American International Group Inc. CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. Mr. Welch is leading an investor group seeking to buy the Times’s Boston Globe. Mr. Greenberg casually suggested he and Mr. Mack work together to take over the whole company, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Late last month, for the first time, Mr. Elmasry walked into the New York Times boardroom and addressed its full board, including Mr. Sulzberger. That day, the company also heard from another major shareholder, T. Rowe Price Group Inc. In his presentation, Mr. Elmasry criticized the Times’s planned new headquarters, its acquisition strategy and Mr. Sulzberger’s ill-fated choice of Howell Raines as New York Times executive editor. But his main grievance was the complex structure by which the Sulzberger family maintains control over the public company.
Dislodging that setup might be an unattainable goal for Mr. Elmasry, but his campaign has nonetheless forced the board to embark on some difficult discussions. It even pushed the family to consider — briefly — taking the publisher private.
Elmasry shows no sign of letting up, either. He is reportedly trying to rally NYT investors to boycott its next board elections in late April.