It always seemed odd that the New York Times Company owned part of the Boston Red Sox. Sure, they publish the Boston Globe, but it never quite fit that a company with such close ties to New York was involved with the Sox. Times Square isn't named after clocks, after all.
They may not have the association much longer. The Times announced that they've hired Goldman Sachs to help them sell their 17.8% stake in the team, Fenway Park and other associated business as part of their attempt to deal with a 47.5% drop in income in 2008. Overall, the company lost $57.8 million against a profit of $208.7 million in 2007. They're also seeking a sale-leaseback of their headquarters building on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.
The news here isn't about the impact on the race for the American League East crown. The battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox will continue unabated, no matter who picks up that share.
The news is the latest and biggest blow to "traditional" media. Newspapers in Minneapolis and Seattle are rumored to be near death if they can't find cash infusions, but that's nothing compared to a national paper of record. All of these papers are getting caught in a perfect storm of already declining ad sales meeting the recession to create an atmosphere where they can do little other than bleed money.
The hope is that getting out of ancillary businesses will help strengthen the core of the Times so that it can continue to do the work for which they are justly famous. It's hard to do that, though, when diversifying to a modern, digital media company is their only hope for survival. They've done a better job than most of their brethren, but it hasn't translated on the balance sheet. As someone who grew up with the Times on the kitchen table, I hope we don't see a day when it doesn't exist, but the writing may be on the wall.