Times Preps For Proxy Fight Over Board Seats

Feb 12 2008 | 12:38pm ET

A pair of hedge funds seeking changes at The New York Times Co. may have had a “productive and positive dialogue” with the publisher on Friday, but the Gray Lady isn’t ready to give them the keys to the boardroom.

The Times said today that it would nominate two candidates for the four board seats elected by its Class A shareholders. Earlier, activist hedge funds Harbinger Capital Partners and Firebrand Partners, who are trying to push the company to focus more on its digital media holdings, had proffered four nominees for the seats, setting up the prospect of a proxy battle.

Robert Denham, a partner at law firm Munger Tolles & Olson, and Drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore, will stand for election to the board, the Times Co. said. Current directors Brenda Barnes and James Kitts will not seek reelection at the company’s April 22 annual meeting.

Harbinger and Firebrand, which together own some 10% of the Times Co., have said they are not interested in changing the company’s dual share class system, which gives the Sulzberger family control of nine of 13 board seats. An effort last year by Morgan Stanley Investment Management to do so failed, but more than 42% of Class A votes were withheld in a sign of shareholder unhappiness with the Times.

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