May 27, 2012 / 5:53 PM / 6 years ago

Ex-NY Times CEO clashed with chairman's girlfriend: report

(Reuters) - Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s new girlfriend and the New York Times Co’s (NYT.N) declining business led to the ousting of Janet Robinson as the newspaper company’s chief executive in December.

Janet Robinson, former chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York in this November 30, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A New York magazine article published this week reconstructs the events that led to Robinson's departure after 28 years of service, working her way up from advertising sales to the corner office in 2004, becoming Sulzberger's most trusted lieutenant in the process.

The article is based on interviews with more than 30 sources described as “intimately familiar with different aspects of the Times’ business.”

Robinson chafed at Sulzberger’s increasing preoccupation with his girlfriend Claudia Gonzalez. Robinson felt Gonzalez either took Sulzberger’s attention away from company business for long stretches of time or inserted herself into it at her expense, the magazine reported.

A New York Times spokesman and Janet Robinson declined to comment. Sulzberger did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An automatic e-mail response from Gonzalez said she was traveling in the Himalayas with “almost no access to e-mail or phone.”

Tempting as it is to pin Robinson’s dismissal on Gonzalez, the overarching issue is the ravaged newspaper business and its impact on the Ochs-Sulzberger family’s financial comfort.

Declining advertising revenue, a plummeting stock — Times Co shares dropped 80 percent during Robinson’s tenure - and the three-year absence of a dividend eroded Robinson’s job security.

Indeed, according to the article, the lack of a dividend has created such a feeling of discontent inside the Ochs-Sulzberger family that two years ago it hired Relative Solutions, a company that specializes in disputes inside wealthy families, for counseling.

Relative Solutions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was Robinson’s differing views on the digital future of the and the prospects of other Times properties that also led to her departure.

As such, when Robinson clashed first with Martin Nisenholtz, the Times Co’s respected digital leader, and then Michael Golden, a first cousin of Sulzberger who wanted a broader mandate at the company, Sulzberger didn’t have the stomach to defend her.

For instance, Robinson argued the company should wait to sell the Globe until its figures for fees charged to website visitors were available, believing that if good enough, they could get a better price. But Sulzberger’s cousin Michael Golden, who is vice chairman of the company, advocated selling it right away.

According to the article, Robinson’s dismissal was not unanimous: At least two board members were against her removal. But the majority eventually won out and Robinson was fired on December 9. Times Co employees didn’t find out until six days later.

Neither Nisenholtz nor Golden immediately responded to requests for comment.

Reporting By Jennifer Saba; Editing by Derek Caney

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