The New York Times spits out thousands of words a day through its newspapers. If it would only start coughing a few more up about Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who wants a piece of it, if not more. If the Times doesn’t tell its story soon, everybody else will.
So far it has made no comment. That might not be such a slick move. Speculation over the Times’s future has grown during the past few years as its finances worsen because of advertising revenue declines, more than a billion dollars in debt that it has to pay off and the nearly annnual assaults on the company’s management by shareholders and others who think they know how to do the job better.
The latest news frenzy came when Fortune writer Richard Siklos said that Geffen wanted to buy a nearly 20 percent stake owned by one-time dissident shareholder Harbinger Capital Partners, but was rebuffed. Nearly every news outlet got the story (though most of us paid less attention to a report that a Harbinger-nominated director tried to get Google to buy the Times — and failed), while the Financial Times said that Geffen wants to buy the whole company.
That would be next to impossible, as would any friendly or hostile move at taking control, because the Ochs-Sulzberger family under nearly every circumstance doesn’t have to cave. That hasn’t stopped the frenzy, of course, because the Times’s flagging fortunes have led some to conclude that the Sulzbergers will get sick of seeing themselves growing poor and demand an exit of some kind.
Now, two days after the reports of Geffen’s interest surfaced, the speculation is in full force. Why Geffen? What does he want? What will the Times do?