Pinch Gets Pinched
Drop the martyr act, Sulzberger clan.
We're talking about the New York Times announcement late last week that it will slash the quarterly dividend by 74%, potentially saving the struggling publisher $98 million annually.The paper's controlling family, the Sulzbergers, and its titular head, Times Chairman Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, praised the move, despite the fact that it will cut into their heady income stream, reducing their annual payout to about $6.6 million from about $25 million. "This was a difficult but necessary decision that will provide us with greater financial flexibility in these uncertain economic times," Pinch said in a statement. Shares of the company fell 10% on the news to $5 before inching back above $6 early this week. Note to Pinch: Your so-called "sacrifice" is too little, too late. Advertising revenue has been declining at your once-august paper since well before the recent economic downturn arrived. And while competitors like McClatchy (MNI), Media General (MEG) and A.H. Belo (BLC) are in equally horrific shape, you could have starved off some of the corporate carnage by being a little handier with the hatchet. Now, it's true, if not for the dividend, we'd be hard-pressed to come up with a reason investors would want shares in the NYT. But there are still such business items as earnings, and increasing those typically raises one's stock. Pinch, if you really want to save the family business, then why don't you take a knife to that $1.09 million salary, drop the family's dividend entirely, or, best yet, gather all the Sulzbergers together this holiday season and agree to sell the company. Now that would be some news that's fit to print. Dumb-o-meter score: 75 -- The Bancrofts sold Dow Jones. The Sulzbergers should sell, too.