Who owns The New York Times? Everything you need to know

The New York Times Co.'s headquarters

The New York Times is one of the world’s most iconic newspapers. It’s been around for two decades shy of two centuries, winning more Pulitzer Prizes of any newspaper. The New York Times is based in New York but read worldwide; it’s ranked 18th by circulation. 

Despite being a ‘national newspaper of record,’ The New York Times has faced criticism for allegedly leaning to the left side of politics. Nevertheless, the critics haven’t affected its membership, with more people globally subscribing to the paper. 

The Sulzberger family owns The New York Times through The New York Times Company. The family owns about a fifth of the paper and controls it via a special class of voting shares. 

Adolph Simon Ochs bought The New York Times from Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones

Adolph Simon Ochs
Adolph Simon Ochs

Journalist and politician Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones founded The New York Times as the New-York Daily Times in September 1851. The paper sold for a penny. 

It enjoyed early success because it targeted an intellectual readership. The publishers promised to be non-partisan and dedicated to the reform or extermination of the evils in society. 

In September 1857, the paper became The New-York Times (the hyphen dropped in 1896). In 1861, it started publishing a Sunday edition to give daily updates on the Civil War. 

George Jones took over as publisher after Henry Raymond’s death in 1869. Under Jones’s leadership, the paper became increasingly Republican-leaning, especially after its damning exposé of the city’s Democratic Party leader William Tweed. 

The paper became more bi-partisan in the 1880s: it stopped supporting Republican Party candidates and became more analytical. A move to support Democrat Grover Cleveland in his first presidential campaign lost the paper a significant chunk of Republican readers, leading to a loss of revenue. 

However, by the time George Jones passed in 1891, The New York Times had recovered its readership and revenue. Charles Ransom Miller raised enough money to purchase the paper. However, his reign as owner almost sank The New York Times. 

The Panic of 1893 hit the paper hard, and by 1896, The New York Times had less than 10,000 readers and was losing $1,000 a day. 

In 1896, Adolph Simon Ochs, the publisher of the Chattanooga Times, purchased a controlling stake in the company. With editor Carr Van Anda, Adolph rebuilt The New York Times‘ reputation, eventually turning it into an international paper. 

Ever since Adolph Simon Ochs purchased the company in 1896, someone named Ochs or Sulzberger has led the paper. Simon bought a company that was losing money and transformed it into an internationally acclaimed daily. 

The New York Times’ chairperson A.G. Sulzberger took over from his father, Arthur, in 2021

The New York Times’ chairperson Arthur Gregg Sulzberger and his father Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

The current chairperson, A.G. Sulzberger, took over from his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., in early 2021. Arthur oversaw significant changes in the company, including the move from black and white to color and subsequent transformation into a digital publication. 

Sulzberger moved The New York Times to the internet in 1996. He approved the institution of a paywall in 2011, which people considered a risky move, but turned out to be the focal point of The New York Times’ digital business model. 

“He was unafraid to take risks and make big bets — from taking The Times global to introducing the digital pay model — and he did it all while never veering from his commitment to continual investment in Times journalism in order to keep it strong and independent,” Brian McAndrews, a company executive said. 

A.G. praised Arthur’s impact extensively after he announced his retirement: “Our success today is directly attributable to his singular focus on the long term, his embrace of innovation and his sustained investment in quality, original journalism.”

For a brief moment, it looked like the Sulzberger name would depart the paper’s helm. Before A.G. became chairperson, he faced competition for the role of deputy publisher from his cousins Sam Dolnick and David Perch. 

Becoming deputy publisher made one the heir apparent to The New York Times’ throne. Still, A.G. was favorite to take the position partly due to his last name and role in drafting the 2014 Innovation Report, a document outlining The New York Times’ digital strategies. 

As widely expected, A.G. became deputy publisher and later, board chairperson. If A.G retires at the same age as his father, he will remain chairman of The New York Times Company for the next three decades. 

“I know A. G. will not rest in his drive to empower our journalists and expand the scope of The Times’s ambitions,” Arthur said. “And with a dynamic new C.E.O. and the best executive editor in the business, I depart knowing the best is yet to come.”

CEO Meredith Kopit Levien joined the paper in 2013 as head of advertising

Meredith Kopit Levien
Meredith Kopit Levien (Courtesy of the New York Times Co.)

Meredith Kopit Levien grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where she occasionally read The New York Times courtesy of her New Yorker parents. It always felt different from Virginia’s local dailies, she said. 

Nevertheless, she was reluctant to join the paper after it offered her the top position in advertising. “I asked people for advice, and just the sentiment was that it was a great journalism company, but maybe the best days of its business were behind it,” she told The New York Times

“But in the end, I love the place, and I love the mission.” In two years, Meredith earned a promotion to chief revenue officer and executive vice president. A couple of years later, she became the chief operating officer, placing her in the prime position to succeed then-CEO Mark Thompson. 

Mark Thompson ushered The New York Times into the digital age: during his tenure, the paper’s digital readership jumped from 640,000 to more than five million subscribers. Thompson achieved his target of hitting $800 million in digital revenue by 2020. 

‘I feel we’ve achieved everything we had hoped to achieve,” Thompson said. Meredith had big shoes to fill, but she expressed confidence in her ability. “We have really big ambitions for The New York Times, and we have big ambitions for independent journalism, more generally,” Meredith said. 

Meredith has probably overachieved during her short reign as CEO. The New York Times targeted 10 million subscribers by 2025, a target its hit with three years to spare. By acquiring the Athletic and its 1.2 million subscribers, The New York Times surpassed 10 million subscribers; its target is now 15 million subscribers. 

Kopit became CEO during a once-in-a-century pandemic that cut the paper’s revenue by more than half. However, the paper remained afloat due to ever-rising subscribership. 

The demand for news increased due to the BLM movement and the Presidential campaign. Donald Trump, a critic of The New York Times, inadvertently helped it remain in business by providing near-endless scandals for the paper to dig its teeth into. 

15 million digital subscribers is a wildly ambitious target, which the paper might achieve if Donald Trump becomes president again. 

After saving the paper from the recession, Billionaire Carlos Slim owns nearly 17% of The New York Times

Carlos Slim - The New York Times
Carlos Slim (Photo- Pedro Pardo/AFP)

The 2008 financial crisis hit The New York Times hard. People expected the paper to go bankrupt, but Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu stepped in before that happened. Carlos bought a 6.4% stake in The New York Times Company; however, it wasn’t enough. 

In January 2009, Slim loaned The New York Times $250 million. Janet L. Robinson, chief executive of The New York Times Company, said:

“This agreement provides us with increased financial flexibility to continue to execute on our long-term strategy. We continue to explore other financing initiatives and are focused on reducing our total debt through the cash we generate from our businesses and other decisive steps.”

Slim’s loan gave the company time to craft a revival strategy: it integrated digital and print newsrooms, sold the Boston Globe, implemented aggressive marketing campaigns, and created a working digital business model. 

The New York Times eventually recovered – a recovery made possible by Carlos’s investment. In 2015, Carlos exercised warrants that gave him a nearly 17% stake in the company. The New York Times repaid his loan in 2011 but allowed Carlos to purchase shares via warrants expiring in January 2015. 

“The option is a lower price,” Carlos told Reuters. “I’m sure we should exercise the option, but we look at it like a financial investment that has been very good.”

Then chief executive Mark Thompson said repurchasing of the shares was the best option for Carlos: “We believe it is in the best interests of the company to continue to maintain a conservative balance sheet, and a prudent view on the allocation of free cash flow and this one-off repurchase program should not be viewed as a change of position about our capital allocation plans.”

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