Sunday, January 18, 2009

Billionaire Seeks Deal in Times Co.

The New York Times - Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican billionaire, is near a deal to invest about $250 million in The New York Times Company, helping to shore up the publishing company’s struggling finances, according to people briefed on the transaction.

The company’s board is expected to meet on Monday to approve the deal, these people said, and an announcement could be made as early as Tuesday. However, these people also warned that several details still needed to be completed and that it remained possible the agreement could collapse.

The deal would come as the Times Company moves to raise money amid flagging advertising sales and approaching deadlines to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars of debt over the next two years. The company has put its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale and said last year that it would borrow as much as $225 million against its new headquarters in Manhattan through a sale-leaseback agreement.

Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Slim, who already owns 6.4 percent of the Times Company, would invest $250 million in the form of 10-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares, these people said.

As part of Mr. Slim’s investment, which resembles a loan, he is expected to get a special annual dividend, perhaps as high as 10 percent or more on this investment, these people said.

Mr. Slim is not expected to get any representation on the company’s board or any shares with special voting rights like those of the Sulzberger family, which controls the company. Nonetheless, when Mr. Slim exercises the warrants, he would become the largest shareholder in the Times Company, owning about a third of the common stock.

The Sulzbergers own about 19 percent of company and control it with a special class of voting shares.

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