Harbinger Set For Showdown With Media General

Apr 1 2008 | 10:29am ET

Not every media company targeted by Harbinger Capital Partners is interested in giving in: The activist hedge fund seems destined for a proxy battle with Media General.

The Richmond, Va.-based publisher, which owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, among other newspapers and television stations, said it has no intention of making peace with Harbinger, as The New York Times Co. did last month.

“There’s nothing there that tells me that they would bring new ideas or more effective ideas to our business,” Marshall Morton, Media General’s president and CEO, told the Associated Press of Harbinger’s three board nominees.

The Times agreed to support two of the hedge fund’s nominees to its board to head off a proxy battle. Media General and Birmingham, Ala.-based Harbinger have taken a more pugilistic approach, trading barbs and insults in the press and regulatory filings.

The two sides are set to meet today in New York, but the encounter will be less peace summit than presidential-style debate: At a forum hosted by GAMCO Investors, one of Media General’s largest shareholders, the company and hedge funds will present their sides to institutional investors. Each will get 15 minutes to speak, and will then take questions.

Harbinger owns 18% of Media General’s Class A shares. Media General, like the Times Co., has a dual-share class system giving its controlling family disproportionate voting power on the company’s board.

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