The second largest non-family shareholder in the New York Times media empire sold their entire holdings today. The question is - does this seeming vote of no confidence in the newspaper industry endanger the Sam Zell purchase of the Tribune empire, including the Los Angeles Times? A sale that is supposed to close by late November.
Informed sources in both camps say - no. Zell is a noted maverick who follows his own instincts - and not the herd's. Plus this sale of stock - as the below article makes clear - is about a lack of confidence in the people currently running the paper and less about the future of newspapers.
Morgan Stanley Sells Entire New York Times Stake (Update1)
By Leon Lazaroff
Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest shareholder in New York Times Co., sold its entire stake today, according to a person briefed on the transaction, sending the stock to its lowest in more than 10 years.
The person declined to be identified because Morgan Stanley hasn't made the sale public yet. Traders with knowledge of the transaction said Merrill Lynch & Co. sold New York Times stock worth $183 million in a block trade.
Hassan Elmasry, managing director of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, has unsuccessfully challenged the Sulzberger family's control of New York Times Co. through super- voting shares that give them control over the board. Shareholders owning 42 percent of the company, parent of the namesake newspaper and Boston Globe, withheld support from directors at the publisher's April annual meeting.
``This guy has been speaking for a lot of people who are too discreet to speak up and challenge management,'' said Porter Bibb, a managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners LLC in New York and a former New York Times Co. executive.
New York Times shares slid 48 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $18.43 at 12:44 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading and fell as low as $18.28, a level not seen since January 1997.
If Elmasry has sold the stock, ``it's almost a dead certainty there would be a bailout of other institutional holders,'' Bibb said in an interview. ``If that happens and there is a sharp drop in the share price, the Sulzbergers have to sit down and decide whether now is not a good time to take the company private.''
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