4. Penny Ante

The New York Times Co. ( NYT) is feeling the pinch of aggrieved shareholders.

Big investors took a shot across management's bow this week by withholding 28% of votes from the company's board slate. A 5.6% holder, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, wants to eliminate the Class B stock that gives the Sulzberger family control of the board despite its tiny financial stake.

"MSIM believes that the dual-class voting at The New York Times Company, which is an exception to the general rule of one-share, one-vote, creates special privileges as well as responsibilities," the firm says in a Tuesday press release. "MSIM contends that the board and management at The New York Times Company have failed to fulfill these responsibilities effectively."

A look at New York Times' stock performance seems to bear the critics out. Shares of the publisher are down 5% this year and have lost half their value since they peaked in June 2002, as online rivals led by Google ( GOOG) and Yahoo! ( YHOO) have grabbed more ad dollars. The stock's plunge means that $1,000 worth of Times shares bought five years ago is now worth $610 or so, plus dividends of around $70.

The Times declines to comment on the board voting or on Morgan Stanley's claims. But the company did reach out to shareholders in a gesture that seems characteristically half-baked. On Tuesday afternoon, the Times raised its quarterly dividend by a penny a share, to 17.5 cents.

"We are pleased that in a challenging advertising environment, the company has remained committed to improving shareholder return through annual increases in our dividend," said Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. "We have grown our dividend by a compound annual growth rate of 7.1% over the last five years. These dividend increases reflect our board's confidence in the Company's long-term growth prospects and our financial position."

Sorry, but it's plain to see that no one else shares that confidence.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 82. Sulzberger is looking a bit pound-foolish.

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