A new look at what led to the ouster of the New York Times' former CEO Janet Robinson is renewing interest in a possible sale of the Grey Lady, and the soon-to-be-unemployed Mayor Bloomberg is looking like a prime candidate.
New York's Joe Hagan is reporting that Janet Robinson was forced out of her position at the Times after she clashed with Arthur Sulzberger's cousin, Michael Golden. Golden was the head of the Times' regional media group that was sold in the fall of last year. Following that sale, Golden wanted the Times to also sell The Boston Globe with the hope that it would free up cash so the Times could resume paying the Sulzberger family stock dividends that many of them relied on to keep up their lavish lifestyles. The Times' plummeting profits after the financial collapse cut many of them off from their primary source of income. Golden also wanted Robinson out of the picture. Robinson had enjoyed years of protection from criticisms within the company because she was so close with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the Times' publisher, but she had recently feuded with Martin Nisenholtz, the Times' digital guru, and Sulzberger's new girlfriend, Claudia Gonzalez. A move against a Sulzberger family member was the last straw for Robinson:
In the past, Sulzberger had the authority to keep Golden and the rest of his family at arm’s length. Now, with the business struggling and his absences very much a matter of internal discussion, he was no longer in a position to protect Robinson—and, maybe just as important, he had lost the will to do so. His girlfriend didn’t like her. He had lost his digital guru because of her. And now his cousin wanted her gone, too. Sulzberger was up against the wall.
In early November, Golden and Sulzberger made the decision together to fire Robinson.
Robinson's hefty payout after she was let go, Hagan reports, was a protest by members of the paper's board of directors who supported Robinson. "Motivated by what amounted to guilt," Hagan writes, the compensation board awarded her the maximum amount recommended by an outside law firm hired to orchestrate her exit: $11 million came from her pension and retirement plan, $7 million from "her yearly compensation and awards," along with a $4.5 million consulting contract.
All of this has left the Times without a CEO, though Golden has assumed a decent amount of power since Robinson left. Profits at the company were down last year, mostly due to departure packages like Robinson's. Some are thinking that the paper is vulnerable, after it's decline in value in recent years, and that now would be a perfect time for the Sulzberger family to finally sell.