The Murdoch Effect: Bloomberg-New York Times Merger Thoughts?; Civic Duty To Save NYT

Rafat Ali
Sunday, April 20, 2008; 6:07 PM

So Newsweek is reporting, though details are very sketchy and preliminary for now: it reports that Michael Bloomberg's friends are encouraging him to explore the idea of a Bloomberg-New York Times (NYSE: NYT) merger. The reasoning: the proponents of the merger are appealing to the mayor's sense of "civic-mindedness," arguing that he is best suited to take the publishing company private to " help protect the brand" in the wake of relentless shareholder assaults on NYT, and competition from the broadened focus of Wall Street Journal under News Corp.

In the past, rumors have circulated that Carlyle Group was looking at a possible Bloomberg takeover, but that didn't pan out. Meanwhile, last week in NYT's earnings call, CEO Janet Robinson was asked whether the company felt any more heat from WSJ, as a competitor, since News Corp (NYSE: NWS). took over its parent company, Dow Jones: "It's clear that the WSJ is positioning itself quite differently, broadening into the international and political arena." She added that the NYT has a headstart: "(We have) had broad coverage for 156 years."

For Murdoch, quoted in the story, Bloomberg-NYT is a natural fit, as the mayor has pledged to remain a force in national public life after leaving New York's city hall at the end of next year. But the prospect of competing against the combine isn't that appealing to him: "I wouldn't look forward to going up against him," Murdoch told Newsweek, citing his "great respect for Bloomberg's business abilities."

For now, the Bloomberg-NYT combination is more of a trial balloon than anything concrete. Prior to this, Jim Cramer, Paul Steiger and Michael Wolff have all proposed that Bloomberg "save" the New York Times.


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