The Washington Post reports that the Sulzberger family has a little revolution on its hands:
NEW YORK, April 18 — Disgruntled large investors withheld their votes Tuesday from the New York Times Co. slate of directors to protest a structure that keeps control of the board in the hands of the Sulzberger family.
Times Co.’s share price has dropped by more than 50 percent since its peak in 2002 and, according to the company’s proxy report, has lagged well behind its peer group for the past five years.
On Tuesday, an average of 28 percent of the 129.3 million shares voted at the company’s annual meeting withheld approval from each of four directors elected by holders of publicly traded Class A common stock, according to company spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis. The other nine directors are elected by family-controlled Class B shares, even though their stake in the company is less than 1 percent.
The company’s fourth-largest shareholder, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, which holds 5.6 percent of the Class A shares, issued a public statement calling for the elimination of the dual-class system.
Hassan Elmasry, portfolio manager for Morgan Stanley’s Global Franchise investment program, said in a statement that the two classes of stock should be combined to “provide equal rights, voting power and representation for all shareholders.” The statement said, “This will ensure that the company’s owners are able to hold the Board and management accountable for the company’s performance.”
And over at CJR Daily, Gal Beckerman takes a critical look at how the Times itself covered the story:
So how was this rebellion covered by the major rags? Could the Times’ own reporter, Judas-like, kiss Sulzberger, singling him out as the most probable source of this share-holder vote of confidence. The short answer: No, she couldn’t.
Almost unbelievably, the Times’ article didn’t even mention the name Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Not even once. (And shockingly, when it does mention the Sulzberger family, it misspells their name, twice referring to them as “Ochs-Sulzburger.”). The piece goes out of it’s way to emphasize that the vote withdrawal had to do not with any desire on Morgan Stanley’s part to have the company sold, but rather, “to eliminate the company’s two classes of stock…to force the board to improve management and the share performance.” But it fails to follow up on this idea by exploring who should be held accountable for problems at the company. [emphasis added]
I’ll give you one guess — and no, I won’t count off for spelling.