One of my favorite bomb-tossers, John Ellis, has uncorked a doozy. In a column for the Web site RealClearMarkets, Ellis proposes that Google make an offer to the New York Times Co. that it can’t refuse. Ellis’ arguments:
- Mega-wealthy Google could easily afford to buy the Times Co., the price of which will only keep dropping.
- Even though the Times Co.’s controlling stock is owned by members of the Sulzberger family, who don’t want to sell, there’s a point beyond which the family can no longer screw other shareholders.
- Rupert Murdoch seems determined to transform the Wall Street Journal into a serious competitor to the Times on all kinds of news, not just financial — and he can afford to run the Journal at a loss.
- Google, like Murdoch, doesn’t need to turn a profit with a small investment like the Times — but may make money anyway if it can leverage Times content across multiple platforms.
- Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. isn’t getting it done, and has been in charge for so long now that it seems clear that’s not going to change.
Ellis, a former Boston Globe columnist, offers some provocation for us locals as well, suggesting that Google could get the price down to a mere $3 billion or so by selling off the Times Co.’s other properties, including the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and its share of the Red Sox and of New England Sports Network. (If the right buyer for the Globe can be found? Go ahead, make my day. But that’s a big if.)
Ellis’ piece is a suggestion, not a prediction. Still, it’s worth noting that in October 2006, when it looked as though a group headed by retired General Electric chairman Jack Welch might buy the Globe, Ellis wrote: “Mr. Sulzberger would be a fool, of course, to sell the Globe to anyone at this juncture.”
He was exactly right. Which raises the question of whether Times Co. executives now would be fools not to sell the Globe.
Ellis’ proposal is logical, if unlikely to happen. But given that all of our great news organizations are going to have to find new, once-unthinkable ways of surviving, I can imagine a worse fate for the Times than landing in the arms of Google, which generally, though not always, lives up to its “don’t be evil” philosophy. Better Google than Murdoch, certainly. (Via Romenesko.)
*Click here for reference.