Cars and motoring are not really FT Alphaville’s specialty. But we do love public spats.
The current one running between Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and John Broder of the New York Times is particularly engaging. It regards Broder’s test-drive of the Tesla Model S and his subsequent rubbishing of the experience in an article that claimed the electric car ran out of battery early and generally failed to perform in cold weather. Read more
“More damaging to Goldman Sachs than the Vampire Squid piece.” - @daveg
“The views of this departing Goldmanite are not particularly unique. The surprise is his willingness to go public.” – @peter_tl Read more
News Corp has named Lex Fenwick, a former chief executive of Bloomberg, as chief executive of Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. The FT says Mr Fenwick fills a position that has been empty since July when his predecessor, Les Hinton, stepped down in the midst of the phone hacking scandal at News Corp’s UK newspaper arm, which he had run for 12 years before joining Dow Jones in 2007. Separately, the FT reports digital subscriptions to the New York Times online edition stabilised revenues at the publisher’s flagship title in the fourth quarter of 2011, but group results were dragged down by a further decline at About.com, its consumer information website. Arthur Sulzberger Jr, chairman and interim chief executive officer, told analysts that a search for a new chief executive was “in its early stages”, and emphasised that the board was looking for an executive “with digital and brand building experience”, without mentioning any need for experience in print publishing. The group made no mention of any dividend plans, saying instead priorities for its cash would be addressing its underfunded pension plans and paying off $75m in notes maturing later this year. It cut net debt from $597m to $493m over the course of 2011, reducing interest expense in the period from $23.2m to $15.5m. Read more
Janet Robinson will step down as chief executive of the New York Times Company at the end of the month after seven years at the helm of the news publisher, reports Reuters. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr will oversee the company while a search for internal and external candidates to replace Ms Robinson is conducted. The Times gave no explanation for Robinson’s sudden departure, which caught analysts as well as company insiders by surprise. Speculation among industry observers and the analyst community centered on the company’s faltering stock price, which has declined more than 80 per cent since Ms Robinson was appointed chief executive in December 2004 — also a period in which the industry has come under great pressure. The NYT however says Mr Sulzberger “raised the issue of installing a different type of leadership at the company” at a meeting with Ms Robinson on Friday, citing people familiar with the meeting. Read more
The New York Times Co is in talks to sell its stake in the Boston Red Sox, Reuters reports. The company expects to make a profit on the sale of the baseball team, it said on Tuesday. Earlier this year it sold part of its stake in New England Sports Ventures, the parent company of the Red Sox, and said it would explore selling the remaining 16.6 per cent. The New York Times paid an estimated $75m for a 17.75 per cent stake in 2002. Analysts have said that the company was seeking $100m for the entire stake, the news agency reports. Read more
The New York Times reports how the prospects for BP’s trading unit are looking uncertain following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, especially as the resources the division once took for granted become threatened. There are already signs, the NYT says, that trading partners are becoming wary of BP’s financial outlook with one market participant, Bank of America Merrill Lynch already halting long-term contracts with BP. The paper says the secretive unit earns the company between $2bn and $3bn annually and has long inspired fear and envy among rival traders. Read more
This is what happens when two “marquee columnists” fall out – a readers’ editor is called in to adjudicate.
I think the right thing to do is to simply acknowledge that, in trying to quickly summarize Krugman’s nuanced position, Sorkin over-simplified and got it wrong. Krugman did not call for the nationalization of the entire banking system, and, unless Sorkin can produce a citation to the contrary, he did not say it was necessary because otherwise the banks would fail again and cause a worldwide domino effect. Read more
So asked the New York Times this weekend in a 3,000 word article this weekend, that eventually came to the conclusion that a debt-for-equity swap was probably, sort of, the only answer to the bank’s problems.
However, the piece has drawn a furious response from Rochdale Research voluble banking analyst Richard X. Bove, who reckons the authors, Andrew Martin and Gretchen Morgenson, have completely missed the point: which is that Citi is already dead and the body is being dismembered. Read more
David Geffen, the former record executive who made an offer for the LA Times two years ago, now wants to buy the New York Times, say people close to the situation. Geffen, a co-founder of DreamWorks SKG, made an offer in the past two months for the 19.8% stake in the New York Times Company held by Harbinger, the activist US hedge fund controlled by Philip Falcone. His offer was rebuffed, but Geffen remained interested and would be “a patient buyer”, they said. Read more
Does anyone care to remember this story on AIG, from the New York Times, back in September? More to the point, does anyone remember the trouble it caused?
It was one of a series of articles that appeared in the mainstream press contemporaneous to AIG’s bailout that dissected just what the insurer had been doing that made it so risky, and so systemically important. Read more
Who said newspapers were dead?
After two hours scouring Starbucks (at least 11 of them), newspaper stands (9), copyshops (2), pharmacies (3) and book stores (2), I can attest that there isn’t a newspaper left in Midtown Manhattan. Read more
Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim Helú, the world’s second richest man, has become the third largest outside shareholder of the New York Times, after reporting a 6.4% stake worth $127m. The purchase, disclosed in a US regulatory filing on Wednesday, comes months after Harbinger Capital Partners purchased nearly 20% of the publisher of the namesake newspaper and the Boston Globe and launched a proxy war for board seats. New York Times shares have fallen 33% in the past 12 months. It was not immediately clear whether Slim had requested board representation, but he has not been known as an activist shareholder. Slim has shown growing interest in media companies. Known as a value buyer, he has significant holdings in the debt and equity of Mexico’s two largest broadcasters, and disclosed a 1% stake in Independent News & Media, the Irish newspaper group, in May. Read more
Harbinger Capital Partners Funds, a low-profile hedge fund managing $18bn, nominated four candidates Friday for election to the board of the New York Times, reports the Wall Street Journal. Together with another investor, Harbinger has 4.9% of the Times. The same day, it made a similar move on US newspaper and TV-broadcasting concern Media General, in which it has accumulated an 18.4% voting stake. Harbinger’s move against the Times comes three months after a Morgan Stanley investment fund sold its stake in the company, ending a two-year campaign for changes at the publisher. Harbinger could pose a bigger threat. Morgan Stanley never ran for board seats. A deep well of investor discontent with how the Times is dealing with broader newspaper industry woes, such as declining advertising revenue, means the hedge fund will at least get a hearing from shareholders. Last year, more than half of Times’ outside shareholders withheld votes from the company’s board. Read more