NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr praised Mexican billionaire and major Times investor Carlos Slim as a “true Times loyalist” in a Time magazine article published on its website on Thursday.
The short article was part of the “The 2009 Time 100,” an annual series that compiles the magazine’s list of whom it consider the world’s “most influential people.”
Slim, who built a telecommunications empire and other big businesses in Mexico, lent $250 million to the Times Co this year to help the struggling newspaper publisher pay debt.
In return, he is one of the biggest Times investors, with a 17 percent stake. Sulzberger’s family, which has run the Times since 1896, owns about 20 percent of the public shares of the company, along with a separate set of shares that gives it more power over the Times than other shareholders.
Slim, Sulzberger wrote, “thought it would be a good idea to get to know me and my senior colleagues. It was obvious from the moment we met that he was a true Times loyalist.”
Sulzberger, chairman of the Times Co and publisher of The New York Times newspaper, called Slim, 69, a “very shrewd businessman with an appreciation for great brands,” and “showed a deep understanding of the role that news, information and education play in our interconnected global society.”
The article does not say when they met.
Slim is one of the world’s richest men, and some media observers have questioned his intent for investing in the Times. Sulzberger at the Times’s annual meeting earlier this month said Slim has not tried to influence the company.
Media analysts earlier this year said it is unlikely that Slim would try to force the Ochs-Sulzberger family to sell the company.
Slim has fought accusations in Mexico of running state-sanctioned monopolies, which some media experts have said makes him an odd fit for the Times Co. A Times editorial writer in 2007 published an article that called Slim a robber baron.
The Times is trying to pay off debt even as advertising revenue declines at the Times and other U.S. newspapers.
It is also trying to reduce costs through pay cuts and layoffs. It set Friday as the deadline to get concessions from unions at the money-losing Boston Globe. If the unions and the Times fail to reach an agreement, the Globe could close.
Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Derek Caney