Harbinger Denies Hostile Intentions Towards Media General

Jan 31 2008 | 8:35am ET

Harbinger Capital Partners wants Media General to know that it has no hostility for it—or hostile intentions towards it.

In a letter to the Richmond, Va.-based company, Harbinger sought to assure it that, contrary to statements from Media General executives, its desire to win three board seats is neither hostile nor ill-advised. It merely wants to provide support to a portfolio company facing serious challenges.

Harbinger said it was not interested in changing Media General’s dual share structure, which gives a controlling family overrepresentation on the board. Its partner, hedge fund Firebrand Partners, in an effort to win representation on the board of The New York Times Co., gave similar assurances to the Gray Lady.

Harbinger owns 18.4% of Media General’s Class A shares—it is the publisher’s second-largest shareholder. The company publishes the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch and Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, as well as 23 television stations.

Media General, whose CEO, Marshall Morton, earlier this week said he was “puzzled” by Harbinger’s “hostile actions,” struck a more conciliatory tone yesterday. But it questioned the hedge fund’s desire to replace three experienced independent directors.

“We welcome Harbinger’s willingness to engage in a dialogue with us, in part because we have been trying to do so with them for several months, and we look forward to hearing whatever Harbinger has to say,” Media General said in a statement.

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