The New York Times, the paper, has gotten used to taking a beating, particularly in the last few years, as a function of both its place in our culture and some major media misadventures. And the editorial side has reacted with plenty of introspection, the addition of public editors, changes to its policies and so on.
But the parent company's business side? That's a tougher beast to push around, because the Ochs-Sulzberger family owns 91% of the shares that control nine out of 13 seats on the board.
On April 18, however, Morgan Stanley Investment Management announced that it wants The Times Co.'s dual classes of shares eliminated, so outside shareholders have as much influence as the family that has controlled the company since 1896. Morgan Stanley, which owns more than 5% of the second-tier shares, withheld its votes for directors at the company's annual meeting.
Nothing changed in the executive suite or corporate structure, but headlines -- something The Times Co. knows something about -- bloomed all over, including in The Times itself. Watercooler is sure, with the Time Warner/Carl Icahn tempest still a fresh memory and Knight Ridder forced into a sale by disgruntled shareholders, the Morgan Stanley "suggestion" to restructure is being seriously discussed. And speculation about how this might affect the storied newspaper company -- from talk of whether the Sulzberger family should take it private in the New York Observer to Huffington Post floating the rumor that President-CEO Janet Robinson's job is in jeopardy -- is rampant. And criticism of Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Co. and publisher of The New York Times, has percolated for weeks amid complaints about the company's underperforming stock price.
Now public relations executives at The Times Co. are shopping for outside crisis public-relations experts, according to a report in The New York Post today. Catherine J. Mathis, a Times Co. spokeswoman, declined to comment.