The Sulzbergers, same as the Bancrofts (and the Grahams, and the Chandlers)
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If you've been busy beaching and barbecueing these past two days, you may have missed the scent of Joe Hagan raking the family that controls The New York Times over the coals in the new issue of New York magazine.
Until now, not much has been revealed about the reasons behind Robinson's abrupt exit from the company she had lorded over since 2004, aside from the details of her exit package and reports that she had clashed with Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and other executives over her management style and the direction of the company's digital strategy.
Hagan fills in all the blanks. According to his feature, Robinson's once rock-solid relationship with Sulzberger had cooled over the past year as she clashed with his new girlfriend, drove his long-time digital chief to an early retirement, and came into conflict with an influential member of Sulzerger's family (which controls the publicly-traded Times Company through a two-tiered stock-ownership structure) over two of the company's struggling media properties—About.com and The Boston Globe.
Here's the crux of it all:
As the paper’s stock price has declined in recent years, there has been increasing unease among the Ochs-Sulzberger clan, who control the paper through a special class of shares. Three years ago, facing huge debt problems, the company suspended the lucrative stock dividend that once flowed quarterly to the family’s 40-plus members, intensifying the need to solve the intractable advertising problems of the newspaper in the digital age and figure out a way to turn the family’s cash spigot back on. Janet Robinson, the company’s advertising brains, found herself caught between her increasingly remote boss and a frustrated family worried over the future of its 116-year-old fortune.
So that parachute? It was basically, according to Hagan's piece, a way for the board of directors to penalize the Sulzbergers because they fired her for not selling properties that would have allowed the many lecturers and academics of the Sulzberger clan to pay for other activities like skiing with a stock dividend.
You can read the rest here.
In other news...
Notes from Times executive editor Jill Abramson's latest "Grill Jill" session: "The past few months have been a time of tremendous creative energy in our newsroom, sadness and some tension." [The New York Observer]
David Carr on the "doomed romance" of the Times-Picayune. [The New York Times]
Gawker's Maureen O'Connor is headed to New York mag's The Cut. [W.W.D.]
The full transcript of Roger Ailes' Ohio University commencement speech. [Jim Romenesko]
"As more newspapers move to paywalls, it comes clearer to me that publishers are attempting to use a Band-Aid to cover a bullet hole." [Media, disrupted]