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Two of newspapers’ ruling families play out a Shakespearean drama. Fate smiles upon the Washington Post, while tragedy looms for the New York Times. 6/22/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Graham, NY Times, Sulzberger, Washington Post.
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The fortunes of the Roman Empire waxed and waned as power passed from one ruling family member to another — bloodlines did not produce equal leadership talent. History is repeating itself among today’s newspaper monarchies. Fate now smiles upon the Washington Post (WaPo), which is blessed with an unusually capable and enlightened ruler, Donald Graham. But, the New York Times (NYT) falters under the unsteady hand of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., as Times shareholders conspire and plan a coup d’etat.

WaPo’s Graham and NYT’s Sulzberger chose two different paths and it appears that their disparate choices have sealed their fate. Years ago, Graham lost confidence in the future of the newspaper business, so he diversified WaPo’s fortunes into holdings like Kaplan educational services and TV stations. But the Sulzberger family’s fatal flaw was pride, and they sought to fortify their NYT kingdom while conquering new lands through purchases of the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune. Consequently, in the past 5 years, WaPo’s stock has gained 39%, while NYT shares have plunged 50%, leading some to even question whether a few years hence the NYT is “to be or not to be.”

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