By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Arthur Sulzberger’s $15 million headache

In case you missed it, Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post weighed in with a very interesting story Tuesday on turmoil at the New York Times Co. At the top of the list is the $15 million being paid to departing chief executive Janet Robinson, who by all appearances had a falling-out with company chairman Arthur Sulzberger.

No doubt you recall that the Times Co. demanded the Boston Globe’s unions agree to $20 million in givebacks in 2009 as the price of keeping the paper alive. Now Sulzberger has given 75 percent of that money to one person. Yeah, yeah, it’s a one-time expense versus annual savings from the unions, but you get the picture.

The Times Co. this week also followed through on its plan to sell its Regional Newspaper Group, 16 smaller dailies in the South and the West. Media business analyst Ken Doctor tells the Times that the sale price of $143 million was “incredibly low” (indeed: only 9.53 Robinson-size buyout packages), and that the deal buys company executives time to think about whether it wants to keep or sell the Globe.

Following a tumultuous 2008 and ’09, the Times Co. appeared to have achieved some stability, putting its financial house at least somewhat back in order. It looks like that stability may now be coming to an end.

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  1. Tobe

    And yesterday the bone-heads at the NYT sent out an email offering a swell deal if you re-subscribed to the Grey Lady after canceling your subscription. I tried calling and as the saying goes, “Due to heavy call volume……..” They did say you could FAX!!!!!!!!!! information to their attention. Very 20th century. If liberal bias doesn’t kill off the Times it looks like the marketing department will do the job.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Tobe: The whole thing was a mistake — an email that was supposed to go to 300 people went to 8 million instead. Boneheads indeed.

  2. Joe Beckmann

    Many, many years ago the Times virtually invented the Newspapers in Education program of the American Newspaper Publishers Association. Ultimate, in the 1970’s, education subscriptions – at deep discounts to k-16 institutional users – represented over 10% of their subscription base. Now, they only make discounts available to postsecondary subscribers. This represents a remarkable transformation that, it would seem, nobody noticed. That alone says volumes about the non-print media, but it also suggests – given that their web page still has a residue of school subscriber discounts – that their decision is based on very slight information. And that is where the problem probably is most grievous: they don’t know what they’re doing.

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