A couple of weeks ago the Ochs-Sulzberger family pulled the majority of its
assets (around $640 million) from Morgan Stanley, which had been the
custodian of the family fortune for many years. The caption under a picture
of Arthur ("Pinch") Sulzberger on the FORTUNE website read, "Angered by a
money manager's challenge, Times chairman Sulzberger, Jr will no longer do
business with Morgan Stanley."
I understand how Pinch could get pissed and defensive at Hassan Elmasry, a
Morgan Stanly managing director who runs Morgan Stanley's American and
Global Franchise Strategies Portfolio. The fund has $11.5 billion in
investments and owns about 7.6 percent of the NY Times Company stock.
Elmasry has been urging a shareholder revolt against Pinch and the
Ochs-Sulzberger family ownership of about 19 percent of the NY Times Company
stock but all of the Class B voting shares, which allows the family to
control nine of 13 board seats. The company's stock is off 40 percent in the
last two years and Elmasry thinks it's probably Pinch's fault. After all,
he's the Times' CEO who is elected by the family-controlled board of
But, shame on you, Pinch, for pulling your money out of Morgan Stanley in a
snit. What would the NY Times or the Boston Globe say to an advertiser who
used economic bullying by canceling its advertising because it didn't like
an editorial stance your papers took? Wouldn't you say that it trying to use
its financial clout in an attempt to squelch your well-considered and
well-researched position? Wouldn't you defend freedom of speech and the
notion that your editorials create a public dialogue about important public
issues and that you would welcome and publish dissenting opinions in an
attempt to create a robust marketplace of ideas? Wouldn't you urge the
advertiser to fight it out with you publicly, to put the ideas out, defend
them, and let the public choose? Wouldn't you accuse it of trying to bully
you and interfering in your duty to your public?
In the FORTUNE website article (February 2) by Tim Arango, in which the
picture and caption quoted above appeared, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack was
reported to have said that he would have preferred that Elmasry had never
gone after the newspaper of record, but that he has never interfered because
meddling would conflict with Elmasry's obligation to his investors.
It's ironic that the New York Times editorialized when the dot-com bubble
burst and the subsequent scandal erupted about how some investment analysts
should be punished because they gave positive ratings to turkey stocks
because of pressure from the investment banking side of the house. It seems
only fair and balanced that the Times should editorialize now against
another type of economic bullying or else be accused of flagrant hypocrisy.