- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NEW YORK — New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. yesterday disputed reports that the company might be for sale, calling them “ill-informed.”

Mr. Sulzberger told shareholders at the Times’ annual meeting that his family, which controls the company, “absolutely believes in the necessity of protecting our editorial independence and integrity.”

As a result, he added, “this is why it is necessary to state — as I did last year — that this company is not for sale.”

The Times, which also owns the Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune, has been dogged by rumors of a sale as its financial performance and stock price struggle.

Last week, the company reported financial results well below analysts’ estimates for the first quarter, as advertising revenue fell 9.2 percent. The Times’ shares traded as high as the high $40s in early 2004 but have been trading recently at about $20.

Like other newspaper publishers, the Times is suffering a dual blow from the declining economy and the loss of advertising spending to the Internet.

Yesterday, bond ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service lowered the Times’ debt to one grade above “junk” status, citing “ongoing deterioration” in advertising revenue.

Newsweek magazine reported in this week’s issue that top associates of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have been encouraging him to consider making a bid for the Times.

Mr. Bloomberg demurred Monday, saying, “I am not going to go into the newspaper business.”

Mr. Sulzberger made his comments on the same day the company elected a new slate of directors that included two nominated by a dissident investor, the hedge fund Harbinger Capital.

The inclusion of Scott Galloway, a shareholder activist and marketing professor, and James Kohlberg, co-founder of the investment firm Kohlberg & Co., defused a looming proxy battle with Harbinger, the company’s largest outside shareholder.

Harbinger had threatened to nominate a rival slate of directors but agreed not to after the Times said it would add Mr. Galloway and Mr. Kohlberg to their slate.

All five of the directors elected by the Times’ publicly held Class A shares received at least 78 percent of the votes cast, company spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said.

The other 10 directors are elected by the Sulzberger family.

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