The Bryan family will no longer control Media General if a planned merger with New Young Broadcasting occurs. The deal will end a streak going back to the end of the 19th century, when Lewis Ginter gave The (Richmond, Va.) Daily Times to Joseph Bryan.
The agreement will eliminate the “dual-class stock structure that has given [J. Stewart Bryan III], the company’s chairman and former CEO, voting power to elect 70 percent of its board of directors,” John Reid Blackwell reports.
Bryan, the great-grandson of the founder of the newspaper company that grew to become Media General, will remain the combined company’s chairman. He has said he will own about 1 million shares, but his holdings won’t put him among the five largest shareholders — the smallest has about a 5 percent stake — in the new company, regulatory filings show.
Bryan has said it was no longer necessary to maintain a dual-class stock structure after the company exited the newspaper business.
Other media companies, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times have used dual-class share structures to maintain family control of their signature assets. The Bancroft family sold the Journal to Rupert Murdoch in 2007, and the Graham family sold The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos earlier this year. The New York Times is still controlled by the Sulzberger-Ochs family via a dual-class structure.
After the Grahams sold the Post, Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said the Times was not for sale.
“There has been much speculation and understandable concern about what this could mean for us,” Sulzberger wrote in a memo to employees.
Will our family seek to sell The Times? The answer to that is no. The Times is not for sale, and the Trustees of the Ochs-Sulzberger Trust and the rest of the family are united in our commitment to work together with the Company’s Board, senior management and employees to lead The New York Times forward into our global and digital future.