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Sulzberger Will Shows Heirs Want to Sell his New York Times Stock

By James Fanelli | October 10, 2012 7:32pm

NEW YORK CITY — The children of the late New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger are moving quickly to sell stock he held in the Gray Lady's parent company, his will reveals.

Sulzberger died at 86 on Sept. 29, leaving behind a massive $70.2 million fortune, including $41 million in New York Times Company shares, according to a Oct. 5 filing in Manhattan Surrogate Court.

He named his children, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Karen Sulzberger, Cathy Sulzberger and Cynthia Sulzberger, as executors. But court records show three of the siblings have temporarily renounced their rights, leaving Karen Sulzberger in charge as the preliminary executor in order to facilitate a sale of the company's stock in Sulzberger's estate.

In their request to the court, the four newspaper scions expressed concern that their roles in the Times Company could hurt the value of the stock sale. Sulzberger Jr. is currently the chairman and CEO of the Times company and publisher of the newspaper. Cynthia's husband, Steven B. Green, sits on its board of directors.

"If all four of the executors were empowered to act, there would be significant restrictions on the sale of that stock, leading to possibly adverse consequences to the estate," the court filing says.

The siblings said they hope to complete the sale within four to six weeks, but do not specify whether they intend to hawk all or part of the stock.

Once the sell-off is finished, Karen Sulzberger's siblings would ask the court to let them join her as executors to the Sulzberger estate, which includes a $5 million Fifth Avenue co-op apartment and a sprawling $7 million compound on tony Gin Lane in Southampton, records show.

In the filing, they explain their quick maneuvering, noting they're "concerned about market fluctuations and would like to be in a position to manage the decedent's assets as soon as possible."

Sulzberger's estate lawyer, Ted Wagner, acknowledged the family planned to sell Times stock in order to pay estate taxes.

"When someone dies, we have a rather significant estate tax," Wagner said. "You pay almost 50 percent to the state and the federal government."

He added the family had not determined how much of Sulzberger's stock they planned to sell.

"I would be surprised if they didn't sell some," he said. "I would be very surprised if they sold it all."

Herb Nass, a trust and estates attorney not involved in the Sulzberger will, said the siblings essentially acted fast to get the court to slow down the probate process.

"They filed very quickly, but then asking not to have the will probated promptly is a little unusual," Nass said, speculating that the move was a corporate decision to avoid a conflict of interest Sulzberger Jr. may have.

Media critics and financial analysts have speculated widely about the future of the Times and whether the Sulzbergers will continue to hold its reins as ad revenue declines and print sales diminish.

The company's stock has been trading at a high over the last three months. It closed Wednesday at $9.98 a share, giving it a value of $1.48 billion. In May it was valued at $5.98.

The dynasty has controlled the paper since 1896. Its members hold individual trusts of the company stock, and a central family trust reportedly has between $270 million and $300 million in stock.

Even though the family reportedly only owns less than 20 percent of the company, it has a 70 percent voting majority vote due to a dual-class structure of stocks.

Sulzberger Sr. was the legendary chairman and CEO of the Times company for 34 years, overseeing its expansion into TV, radio and the Internet.

His childhood nickname was "Punch," and he kept the moniker throughout his career. In his will, he hoped his collection of "Punch" objects would find a home, requesting that his executors find a suitable museum for them or divvy them up among his grandchildren.

The will leaves the majority of his estate to his four children and grandchildren, but he made hefty charitable donations, including $1 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and $500,000 each to the Fresh Air Fund, the Jewish Campus Life Fund and the Marine Corps. Heritage Foundation.

Sulzberger Sr. left gifts of $20,000 or more to his former secretary, his housekeeper, his driver and his Southampton estate caretaker.

He also gave $75,000 to his eldest child, Cathy, to make gifts as remembrances to his friends and to people who "have been of real service to me during my life."