The wingnut parade at the 112th annual New York Times stockholder’s meeting, held late this morning at the Times’ conference room on the other side of a birch-and-moss filled atrium from the Times’ newsroom tower, was out of control. And when chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was not being harassed by pesky shareholders, he was being attacked by bugs. (He spent about a minute flailing at an insect that seemed to have emerged from his hair.) Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media was there.
He lambasted Sulzberger for lobbying in Washington on behalf of the federal journalists’ shield law, which according to Kincaid "would make us all more vulnerable to a terrorist attack." Sulzberger is not lobbying.
Complaints from the floor ranged from union disputes in Boston to shareholders who would like more advertising in the paper (um, sure!) to someone who would like to raise the newsstand price.
But there were a few valid complaints. One shareholder complained that the Times Company took a bath on the sale of their old building (Tishman Speyer sold the building for $525 million in spring of last year, having purchased it for $175 million in 2004.)
"We missed on the building," said Michael Golden, vice chairman of New York Times Company and a member of the Sulzberger family, which retains control of the paper. "We misunderstood how fast real estate was going up in New York."
And anyway, it’s going down now.
The other valid complaint was about how old people just can’t read all that small print. Fortunately, the Times had just minutes before installed four new board members, one of whom was Scott Galloway. Galloway had a 4.9 percent stake in the Times and then his hedge fund, Firebrand partners, along with another called Harbinger Partners, put together a 12 percent stake. Galloway and pals wanted four seats on the board, but got two.
His first act as a new board member, immediately after the meeting, was to sit down with the elderly woman who said she couldn’t read the paper. Galloway’s mother, he said, has used a really practical magnifying device to read things like newspapers, and he would send her one. He gave the woman a 917 number, and his email, and also took her address.
But in what capacity was he put on the board, she wanted to know. "I’m just a shareholder," he told her. "They put shareholders on the board."
After that encounter, Galloway no-commented a couple of reporters, then entered the Times building proper. His bag was searched and he had difficulty with the turnstiles that led to the elevators.