This just in … Google (NSDQ: GOOG) didn’t buy a stake in The New York Times Co.. (NYSE: NYT) Neither did David Geffen. Google wasn’t shopping — if it wanted a stake in the NYTCo or nearly any other paper, it would already have one. Geffen, who circles back to the idea of owning a newspaper as often as some people think about buying one at a newsstand, was shopping but, once again, still doesn’t own a newspaper or even part of one.
The news comes courtesy of Fortune‘s Richard Siklos, in a story about the NYT’s future. He reports that Scott Galloway, one of two NYTCo board members representing Harbinger Capital Partners, approached co-founder Larry Page about acquiring the hedge fund’s 19 percent stake. Harbinger accumulated the stake at a cost of about $500 million in 2007; it’s now worth less than one-fourth of that. Though Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been emphatic about avoiding newspaper ownership or direct investment, citing unidentified Google sources, Siklos reports that the company “looked seriously at the opportunity before deciding to pass.” No idea whether “seriously” means it made it as far as the Google executive committee.
As for Geffen, Siklos says the entertainment mogul made an offer for the same stake that was declined. Following up, The Wrap, citing an unidentified individual, says Harbinger wanted a premium on top of the market rate offered by Geffen. Maybe Sam Zell can get an employee group together …
— Google love/hate: My first response when I saw the chain reaction to reports that Google is talking with the Washington Post or the New York Times: it would be news if they weren’t talking. In fact, Google has been talking with newspaper publishers about working together in a variety of ways — and working with them — literally for years. What makes this different? Not much, according to Google. Spokesman Gabriel Stricker sent this message: “This was an informal meeting, and we’re always talking with publishers to find new and creative ways to help them make money from compelling online content.”
What makes it noteworthy? 1) The informal meeting included Schmidt and Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) CEO Donald Graham. 2) Newsrooms are at
Defcon 5 Defcon 1 about their own futures. It was almost incidental information deep inside a Howard Kurtz column about opportunities missed by the news industry. The suggestion? The knowledge of continuing talks with tech leader Google is somehow comforting. 3) The love-hate relationship the news industry has with Google.
The idea of working more with Google came up at a digital strategy update at the NYT Monday, as well, with media reporter Brian Stelter twittering that his shop is talking with Google, too. Gawker collected a batch of Tweets in a nice package for those who want to track in 140-characters or less a recap of what’s already been reported about the NYT’s digital strategy: micropayments, maybe. online premium products, yes but not sure what. Non-profit, no.
Update: A thank you to Mike Davidson for catching my Defcon level slip. I’ve seen WarGames enough times to know better.