NYTimes bullies WPost into selling IHT
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2002
The New York Times Company played hardball in pushing the Washington Post Company to sell its 50% share of the International Herald Tribune, an internal Post memo said today.
The Herald Tribune, co-owned by the two newspaper groups, lost $10 million in 2001 and is set to lose $7.8 million in 2002, a source told me. Although the international paper’s circulation is 263,000, a record high, the IHT has been hurt by a collapse in travel and mobile phone advertising.
The New York Times has taken an increasingly aggressive stance internationally, partnering earlier this year with Le Monde to publish its own news in English in the French daily newspaper’s pages.
The two companies have been negotiating in recent weeks about the IHT’s future.
The Post memo said, ”If the Post did not sell, the Times said it would start its own international edition anyway, intending to sell as many copies as allowed under the IHT partnership agreement. The Times also said it would block any cash infusion into the IHT.”
”The Post was prepared to sustain the IHT’s modest operating losses until further efficiencies could be achieved and business conditions improved. But the Times made clear that staying the course was not an option. So it was not possible to remain in partnership with an unwilling partner.”
”This decision was made with great reluctance and sadness, and little choice,” the Post memo said.
In its own internal memo, the Times said, “We have been extremely proud of The Times’s role in the IHT partnership, which began in 1967. Over the past 35 years, the IHT has earned its reputation as the premier international newspaper for opinion leaders and decision makers. During this time, The Washington Post has been an exceptionally good partner. Now, as we await the closing of this transaction, we are anxiously looking forward to working even more closely with our IHT news and business colleagues as we continue bringing quality journalism to its readers around the world.”
The deal was for less than $75 million, a source told Reuters.
The IHT is based in Paris, France and employs 250 there.