Such is the power and influence of The New York Times that even the hint, the suggestion that it might be for sale — or that someone might be interested in buying it — gets tongues wagging. The latest extremely wealthy person to idly muse about buying The Gray Lady is Laurence Powell Jobs. She was asked at at a trade conference if she would buy The New York Times and she asked, “Is it for sale?”
The answer, of course, is no.
The family of current owner Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. sees the newspaper as a family trust and they ain’t going no where anytime soon.
But given that we’re talking about this relatively taboo media subject at all, let’s talk abut this a little bit. A few years ago, it was Google that everyone collectively decided should buy The New York Times. It just seemed to make too much sense.
That was just a passing fancy and things moved on.
Then in 2009, something really weird happen. A relatively unknown — at least in the States — Mexican investor named Carlos Slim bought a big chunk of the paper, seemingly out of the blue. Again, people started mulling what would happen if someone bought paper.
Remember, much, if not all of the actual reporting we have come to enjoy about Trumplandia has come from newspapers. The New York Times and The Washington Post are engaged in a bloody newspaper battle to see who can bring down the Trump Administration. Whoever owns The New York Times would truly own the crown jewel of the American newspaper industry.
There has been talk off and on that maybe billionaire Mike Bloomberg might buy the paper as well. But given the weird way the paper’s stock is setup, the Sulzberger family has pretty much absolute control over the fate of the paper.
And, yet, The New York Times, in real terms, is pretty small in a era of ever growing media conglomerates. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine there might come a point where the Sulzberger might out of sheer desperation feel they had no choice but to throw in the towel.
The newspaper industry is undergoing historic contraction because of the Internet and while the digital side of The New York Times continues to grow, it simply can’t at this point make up for the epic contraction the paper is feeling on the print side. Though, as I understand it, due to Trumplandia, even the print side is getting something of an uptake.
So who might buy The New York Times will continue to be the subject of parlor room debate. It’s very possible that the Sulzberger family will hold on to it for the rest of the century and beyond. But should the Sulzberger family lose grip of The Gray Lady, it would leave the media world in shock and awe.
As an aside, I actually met Mr. Sulzberger once. I was in Seoul and there was this big newspaper conference. I was able to use my then membership to The Society of Professional Journalists to wiggle my way in. Mr. Sulzberger seemed a bit bemused at how giddy I was to meet him. I was like a bobbysoxer. I rarely am starstruck, but this time I was.
It was pretty cool.