David Geffen looking to buy NYT, convert it to not-for-profit

18 05 2009

Newsweek is reporting this interesting tidbit. It could herald a new model for journalism.Geffen

So why is Geffen, having already sought unsuccessfully to acquire the Los Angeles Times and now reportedly eyeing The New York Times, so keen on stuffing his portfolio with an investment that seems dead on arrival—newspapers? Geffen declined to publicly comment on media reports that he recently tried to acquire a large stake in the financially distressed New York Times Co., parent of the storied newspaper. But two people familiar with Geffen’s thinking say the answer is simple: an acquisition of the Times wouldn’t be a financial investment. If Geffen were successful in landing The New York Times, said one of the confidantes, he’d convert it into a nonprofit institution. He would regard the newspaper, perhaps the world’s most influential journalistic enterprise, as a national treasure meriting preservation into perpetuity. His model would be the ownership structure of Florida’s St. Petersburg Times, which is controlled by a nonprofit educational institution, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “David would hope the newspaper makes a profit,” said the confidante. “But he believes that operating without the ultimate responsibility of paying dividends or necessarily having to be profitable is the best way to run an institution like The New York Times.” …

The New York Times Co. has been in virtual crisis mode for months, with precipitous declines in advertising and circulation and the burden with massive amounts of debt. The parent company has been so concerned about its plight that, independent of Geffen, it also recently considered converting to nonprofit status. “But the option is more complicated than it might seem at first blush,” Scott Heekin-Canedy, president and general manager, said last week in answer to a reader’s online query. “For a host of reasons we have ruled this out for the present.” Heekin-Canedy didn’t elaborate, however. “These were proprietary internal discussions,” a company spokeswoman subsequently told NEWSWEEK, declining further comment.

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