As part of its efforts to shore up its core newspaper assets amid the slump, the Times Co. is actively seeking buyers for its 17.5 percent stake in the holding company of the Boston Red Sox, according to reports Wednesday. The holding company, New England Sports Ventures, owns the baseball club, Fenway Park and a majority interest in the New England Sports Network.
The Wall Street Journal cited an estimate by Barclays Capital that the Times Co. stake in the holding company could be worth about $166 million.
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino declined to comment late Wednesday.
Spokesmen for the Times Co. were not immediately available but the company's flagship paper reported the effort to sell the Red Sox stake, citing a person briefed on the plans. The New York Times said the company is "seeking to raise cash and shield its newspaper franchise from rapidly falling revenue." It said the Times Co. paid $75 million for the stake in 2002.
The Times Co.'s ad revenue, which makes up nearly two-thirds of total revenue, had booked declines of 16.2 percent in October and 14.1 percent in September.
Total revenue from continuing operations fell 13.9 percent last month.
For The New York Times' news media segment, advertising revenue dropped 21.8 percent, while circulation revenue grew 4.2 percent. At its flagship newspaper, the New York-based company said weakness in the studio entertainment, national automotive, book and financial-services categories drove declines in national ad spending. Classified ad revenue in the segment also plunged 33.3 percent.
Total Internet revenue - which also includes NYTimes.com, About.com and other company-owned Web sites - dipped 2.6 percent in November. In total, Internet businesses accounted for 12.1 percent of total revenue in November, up from 10.7 percent in November 2007.
The company noted that Internet revenue gained 8.3 percent over the year-to-date period.
The New York Times said unique visitors in the U.S. rose 11 percent to 55 million from 49.6 million unique visitors in November 2007, according to Nielsen Online. The company had the 10th largest presence on the Web and NYTimes.com maintained its position as the top newspaper Web site in the U.S.