Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

A Study Plan for Carlos Slim: Learn Who’s Running the New York Times

There’s been lots of dark muttering about Carlos Slim, the New York Times’s (NYT) new benefactor/loan shark: Exactly how did he make his money, after all? And what does he want with the Times?

Fear not! We’ll learn more about Slim in the near future–you can count on deep dives from both the Times and The Wall Street Journal into all things Slim.

Though I imagine some of these answers may be less interesting than people imagine. For instance, I’m pretty sure he views his Times investment as a way to earn 14 percent on his money and enjoy a nice equity kicker if the stock ever rebounds.

In any case, it turns out that Slim probably has some questions about the Times himself. Like who runs it and what they do. Financial Times:

Carlos Slim Helu, who has ridden to the rescue of the New York Times with a $250m loan this week, professed to know little about the closest thing America has to a newspaper of record just six months ago.

‘Do you know the New York Times?’ the world’s second-richest man asked one visitor in July. ‘Do you know this guy [Arthur] Sulzberger and some woman called Janet [Robinson, chief executive]? What do you think?’”

It’s too late for any more due diligence at this point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to learn about your latest investment. Let me suggest two excellent books about the paper of record:

“The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times,” by Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones: a doorstop of a book that’s also pretty readable. It will explain who Pinch Sulzberger is and how his forefathers built the family business.

“Hard News: Twenty-one Brutal Months at The New York Times and How They Changed the American Media,” by Seth Mnookin: a comparatively breezy read that focuses on a couple people who no longer work at the paper–reporter/fabulist Jayson Blair and his former executive editor, Howell Raines. I don’t think the Blair incident “changed the American Media,” but you can allow Mnookin some hyperbole. His book does do a very nice job of explaining the Times’s hidebound–and excellent–news tradition.

What else should Slim be reading as he studies up on his newest acquisition? Let me know in comments below.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus