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Times owner pulls coin after criticism

Millions in assets yanked from Morgan Stanley

Wall Street wants it both ways, but the New York Times says no way.

Times owners the Ochs-Sulzbergers yanked hundreds of millions of dollars in personal assets from Morgan Stanley after a powerful money manager at the big investment bank slammed their leadership of the storied publisher.

Hassan Elmasry withheld votes for several directors at the Times’ annual meeting in protest of the company’s dual-class share structure that allows the Sulzberger family to maintain control. That structure is common in family-owned media companies. And the Times, which has been the subject of takeover rumors in recent months, says the dual-class structure is necessary to preserve the paper’s editorial integrity.

The Times confirmed that the “majority of the assets” belonging to the Ochs-Sulzberger family was being moved from Morgan Stanley to another institution. No figure was disclosed, but Fortune magazine reported the assets were worth close to $640 million.

It’s also not clear where the money ended up. But the next institution may have second thoughts about declaring war on a client with one hand and accepting its money with the other.

Shares of many newspaper publishers have slumped over the past few years as more advertising dollars and readers move to the Internet. Giant Knight Ridder was forced to sell itself last year under pressure from shareholders. Tribune Co. is also for sale.

Times CEO Janet Robinson told an investor conference in December that the Sulzberger family “has no intention of opening our doors to the kind of action that is tearing at the heart of some of the other great journalistic institutions in our country.”

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