Thursday, 11 September 2008

Vanity Publisher to Acquire the International Herald Tribune (perhaps)

Over the years, the one perenial conversation about the International Herald Tribune and its ownership is that one day it would be sold to a very rich vanity publisher, as and when the NYT gave up on our lovely paper.

So, it was not without some interest that this article from E&P caught my attention:

Slim's $123 Million Bet on the Future of The NYT Co.
By Mark Fitzgerald Published: September 10, 2008 9:45 PM ET
CHICAGO Carlos Slim Helu, who is, depending on who's counting, either the second or third richest man in the world, is most famous for assembling monopoly-like enterprises in Mexico, such as the Telmex telecommunications juggernaut.But there are two other things the U.S. newspaper industry should know about Slim, now that he and his family trust have in one fell swoop scooped up 6.4% of The New York Times Co.First, Slim has a nearly unerring eye for distressed companies that later deliver huge returns. Again, the most famous are Mexican companies such as Seguros de Mexico. He bought the nation's largest insurance company in 1982, when economic and political disarray caused by a collapsing oil price and government currency mismanagement looked to send Mexico back into basket case status. He paid $44 million for Seguros. Last year, The Wall Street Journal estimated it was worth "at least $2.5 billion."But as the Journal, in an August 2007 profile by David Luhnow, also noted that Midas touch can extend into El Norte as well. "From 2002 to 2004, he amassed a 13% stake in bankrupt carrier MCI, later selling it to Verizon Communications Corp. for $1.3 billion," Luhnow wrote. "He has never overpaid for anything," the article quotes a friend as saying.The second thing to know about Slim is that he's a fan and a disciple of the pop futurist Alvin Toffler. What he likes about the "Future Shock" author, he told the Journal, is his concept of identifying opportunities early.Slim's history suggests that he sees in the Times Co. something Wall Street is missing.The New York Times is undoubtedly the world's best newspaper franchise, and arguably the best franchise in news, period, yet its parent's stock price (NYSE: NYT) is trading at the lower end of its 52-week range of $12.08 to $21.14. Wednesday's closing price of $13.96 is nearly identical for its average closing price for October 1996, $13.68.There are reasons for that stock slump, of course, ranging from the cyclical economic downturn to the long-term migration of information and advertising to the Internet. And the Times Co. has the particular burden right now of publishing metro dailies in two especially harsh markets: Boston and Florida.Slim's SEC disclosure says the trust purchase was made Sept. 4, making it an approximately $123 million bet on the Times Co. There's no indication that Slim will be the kind of activist shareholder at Times Co. as the Harbinger Capital Partner/Firebrand combine has been with its purchase of about a one-fifth stake of the company's common stock.Instead, he appears content, for now anyway, to make the bet and see if the "Future Shock" in his first-ever venture into newspaper publishing is a pleasant or distressing one.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

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