But Mr. Baquet, who eventually became the paper's top editor, recently became embroiled in the high-profile conflict over strategy at the Los Angeles Times, whose owner, the Tribune Co., was pressing for costs cuts through measures including newsroom staff cuts.
"I am not averse to making cuts," Mr. Baquet told his own paper in an interview last September. "But you can go too far, and I don't plan to do that. I just have a difference of opinion with the owners of Tribune about what the size of the staff should be. To make substantial reductions would significantly damage the quality of the paper."
Tribune forced him out two months later.
The New York Times, meanwhile, has remained interested. The New York Daily News reported in 2003 that New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. tried to lure Mr. Baquet back after the forced departure of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd.
"Back in 2005, when Dean moved into the top job in Los Angeles, I described him as 'a world class investigator, an inspiring editor and a barrel of fun,'" New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said in a statement today. "Since then he has demonstrated that, in addition to being all of those things, he is a charismatic leader, an unflinching advocate of the values of journalism and a cool character under fire. It's nice top have him back where he belongs and in a bureau that can rise to all of his expectations."
Mr. Baquet, 50, originally joined The New York Times in 1990 as a metro reporter. He was named national editor in 1995. He received a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting after leading a team of three in an expose of corruption in Chicago's city council for The Chicago Tribune, where he worked from 1984 to 1990.
In Washington, he succeeds Philip Taubman, 58, who was named associate editor and special correspondent.