Directors of Cowles Communications Corp., once a major American news media company as publisher of Look magazine and owner of newspaper and broadcast properties, may consider closing down the business today.
A board meeting has been scheduled for New York this morning and the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based firm has promised a statement when the session is concluded.
In the meantime, trading in Cowles stock on the New York Stock Exchange has been halted since Wednesday afternoon at the company's request - apparently based on the fear that some investors could be trading on information about what the company plans.
No official information was available yesterday on the agenda for the meeting, set to start at 10 o'clock.
But Wall Street analysts and news industry sources said they expect management to suggest a plan of orderly liquidation to the directors. Under such an arrangement, stock owned by Cowles Communications would be distributed to stockholders on a pro rata basis and other assets would be sold.
A management investment company today, Cowles owns television stations in Des Moines, Iowa, and Daytona Beach, Fla., as well as 2.6 million shares of class A stock in the New York Times Co. - some 25 per cent of the big publishing firm's public stock.
Cowles acquired the New York Times Co. stock in 1971 in exchange for three daily papers in Florida, a Memphis television station, Family Circle magazine and other properties of then-troubled Cowles.
Starting in the mid-1960s, Cowles began to suffer financial losses. It closed a Long Island daily paper, the Suffolk Sun, which was losing $5 million a year. Later Cowles sold its San Juan newspaper to Scripps-Howard and, in 1971, flagship Look magazine published a final edition on Oct. 19.
A spokesman for the New York Times Co. said last night there had been no discussions with Cowles officials about today's meeting. "I have no idea what's going to happen . . . obviously we're very concerned," said W. Barry McCarthy, of the Times Co.
Time Co. expansion in the broadcasting field was blocked for some time by the collective interests of the New York firm and Cowles operations but with the recent sale of one television station owned by Cowles family interests, McCarthy said the New York firm now is "open to buy" and is actively seeking broadcasts properties.
Federal Communications Commission rules limit broadcast ownership to seven each of AM, FM and TV stations.
If a Cowles liquidation is proposed and approved, the 2.6 million shares of New York Times stock apparently would be distributed to the 3,000 individual Cowles stockholders in a "spinoff" and the Times Co. would no longer be subject to restrictions on ownership of a full complement of broadcast stations.