Slim pickings for the New York Times

Chris Hondros/Getty Images The New York Times Company announced today that an unexpected buyer, the world’s second richest man, Mexican investor Carlos Slim, now owns a 6.4 percent stake in the ailing company. What are we to make of this move? Clearly, it was only a matter of time before inverstors started stepping in to ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
592653_080911_slim5.jpg
592653_080911_slim5.jpg

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The New York Times Company announced today that an unexpected buyer, the world's second richest man, Mexican investor Carlos Slim, now owns a 6.4 percent stake in the ailing company. What are we to make of this move?

Clearly, it was only a matter of time before inverstors started stepping in to save the Grey Lady. The board of the $2 billion New York Times Company, which owns its namesake, the Boston Globe, about.com, and several smaller newspapers, has long been controlled by the Sulzberger family, an arrangement thought to shield it from market pressures. But in the last three years, the company's shares have tumbled from around $40 to about $14. Many at the Times watched with anxiety as the Wall Street Journal was bought last year by Rupurt Murdoch, a move thought to have saved that newspaper and its parent, Dow Jones, from a similar market slide.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The New York Times Company announced today that an unexpected buyer, the world’s second richest man, Mexican investor Carlos Slim, now owns a 6.4 percent stake in the ailing company. What are we to make of this move?

Clearly, it was only a matter of time before inverstors started stepping in to save the Grey Lady. The board of the $2 billion New York Times Company, which owns its namesake, the Boston Globe, about.com, and several smaller newspapers, has long been controlled by the Sulzberger family, an arrangement thought to shield it from market pressures. But in the last three years, the company’s shares have tumbled from around $40 to about $14. Many at the Times watched with anxiety as the Wall Street Journal was bought last year by Rupurt Murdoch, a move thought to have saved that newspaper and its parent, Dow Jones, from a similar market slide.

Slim’s move and other recent share buyouts in the New York Times Company suggest that investors see a bargain. Said Slim on the matter, “The investment is purely financial… It’s a great company, the price is cheap and it gives a good dividend.”

You may be wondering: Just who the heck is Carlos Slim?

As Brian Winter highlighted almost a year ago in a profile for FP, Slim surprised many in 2007 by temporarily beating out Bill Gates for Forbes‘s top spot as the world’s richest man — a position long held by Americans. A billionaire whose $60 billion fortune is equal to about 5 percent of Mexico’s GDP, Slim first made his mark in 1990, taking over telecommunications from the government during a massive privatization scheme. As Winter put it, “the success of Slim and other new billionaires often seems less attributable to their skill as businessmen than to their bona fides as politicians.”

This, Winter argues, is a new kind of political entrepreneur, growing in ranks from Mexico to India and beyond. Their wealth grows faster and their political power extends further than your typical millionaire. The Sulzburger clan is no doubt hoping that Slim’s famous luck — and its quick accrual — rubs off on them.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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