Media General, hedge fund willing to talk

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by Robert Powell

Media General Inc. and Harbinger Capital Partners say they are willing to discuss their differing views on the direction of the Richmond-based media company.

Harbinger, a hedge fund based in the Cayman Islands, has proposed replacing three directors on Media General’s nine-member board. The hedge fund has made a similar proposal with the investment firm Firebrand Partners to place new directors on the board of the New York Times Co.

Media General, the parent company of Virginia Business, received a letter on Wednesday from Harbinger saying it was willing to engage in a dialogue. Media General said it welcomed the chance to talk with Harbinger. The company added it has tried for months to reach hedge fund officials but its calls were not returned.

Harbinger says it owns 18.4 percent of Media General’s Class A shares.

In a Jan. 25 statement, Media General described Harbinger’s board proposal as “ill-advised, hostile and unwarranted.” Noting that the hedge fund appears to have a high portfolio turnover rate, Media General said Harbinger’s nominees likely would not be focused on the long-term interests of shareholders.

In its letter, Harbinger said its proposal is not hostile but instead would bring “fresh ideas” to the Media General board.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, also owned by Media General, covered the exchange between the companies in a story today.

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