Key Excerpts From The Speech New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson Didn’t Give To Investors At This Week’s Media Conferences

Posted by: Jon Fine on December 6, 2006

Thank you. It’s a great time to be publishing big-city newspapers in America.

[PAUSES AND SMILES, WAITS FOR AUDIENCE LAUGHTER TO SUBSIDE]

I do mean that. But I do know that it’s been a tough year, as our most recent guidance indicates.

I know there are concerns about our stock performance. I share them myself. And I understand that there are concerns in some circles of the investor community about our dual-stock structure.

I want to reiterate that the Sulzberger family remains united in its desire to maintain the current structure. As you may know, even if there were dissenters within the family, it would still require the approval of six of eight family members who control our Class B shares to sell. So the Times Co. is not one in which a few dissatisfied family members—if there were any—could in effect put the company into play.

But I’m not here to talk about the family. I want to talk about the future. Or, rather, talk about the future as much as I am allowed to. Which reminds me—before I forget, I know I’ve got to do this.

[RECITES REGULATORY BOILERPLATE CONCERNING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS].

Our flagship newspaper, the New York Times, is the single most valuable information asset in the world. Simply put, it plays a different game from any other newspaper in the world—which means that its affluent and educated audience cannot do without it.

The board and I are convinced that the market is significantly undervaluing what our newspaper does every day, and what can be done with our 150 years of archives, and the reams of content and video the Times now publishes at all hours on the Web.

We are convinced that there will be new tools and technologies, new means and strategies, that will allow us to uniquely benefit from our unique standing in the media world, and that will allow us to monetize our brand and all that’s behind it in ways unimaginable today.

I am not going to stand in front of you and tell you I know this will happen in three months, six months or eighteen months.

I am not going to stand in front of you and tell you that our fabulous recent growth on the Web—have I mentioned that our online revenues will top $350 million next year?—is going to be enough to turn this situation around on its own.

But I am going to tell you that we are going to protect that which makes us the New York Times—the value of the information we publish every day—in order to be ready to take full advantage of it when the time comes.

And this is why we will not change our stock structure. In a time when the market won’t value what makes us unique, we need to be able to protect and invest in our product in order to take full advantage of the time when it will.

This does not mean that we won’t keep paying close attention to costs, and this does not mean we are abandoning our fiscal discipline of the past few years.

It does mean that we are keeping our eyes fixed on a much richer future, rather than sacrificing that to make things slightly better in the present.

Like another company with a two tiered stock structure—one you may have heard of, it’s called Berkshire Hathaway—we are in this for the long haul.

Because that is how we will realize the value of our key brand.

I see we have quite a bit of time left, and Len, Martin and I would be delighted to answer any questions you might have.

Reader Comments

douglas gutow

February 7, 2007 4:55 PM

As shareholder for over 14 years and a reader of the NY Times papers for an even longer period, I am so disappointed with both the performance of my shareholding and even more disappointed with the unbalanced editorial policies of the Times group.

I can not help but think the two are somehow related and for this reason I am selling my shareholding today and will no longer subscribe to or read the NY Times, Boston Globe or Worcester Telegram.

The editorial policy in my view seems to be almost totally unbalanced and able only to present one view......'the President and his administration are total morons and have never done anything in their lives for the good of our country, probably because they have never had the country or its citizens best interests at heart.'

Although I often do not agree with President Bush and many of his initiatives, I do not think it is appropriate to allow the left-wing vitriol to dominate the editorial pages and creep into the reportage while excluding other more moderate or conservative views.

I wonder how many other potential readers in Boston, Worcester, New York and elsewhere
feel the same way? Has this caused readership (and the related advertising revenue) declines which have caused the share price to be cut in half in the last three years? During this same period my other investments have grown in value and the DJIA has increased about 20%.

My investing has been for the long haul, but the NYT management just does not have the horsepower necessary to get out of the driveway much less make a long haul.......what about tieing your upper management compensation policies to the return shareholders have received, in other words will their total compensation decline from 2003 and 2004 levels by 50% or more in 2006 and
2007?

How about getting some balance in your editorial & reportage staffing and toning down the vitriol....maybe more people would want to hear what you have to say? To put a sharp point on it....maybe you would sell more newspapers and find more interest in your web web offerings?

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The media world continues to shapeshift as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. On this blog, Bloomberg Businessweek will provide sharp analysis and timely reports on the transformation of this constantly changing terrain.

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