The New York Times, which has argued in recent years that corporate stock buybacks should be illegal, announced last week that it will purchase $250 million of its own shares, the latest instance of the Gray Lady's left-wing editorial board positions being at odds with its business decisions.
The Times stock repurchasing program—which is when a corporation buys shares of its own stock in order to lower the supply of available stock and boost the price—is being financed in part with higher-than-expected profits and an 11 percent increase in revenue from 2021, according to the Gray Lady's Feb. 8 announcement. Following the buyback announcement, the company's stock spiked by 12 percent.
But stock repurchasing programs are part of the reason "American workers have suffered a devastating loss of economic power, manifest in their wages, benefits, and working conditions," according to a June 2020 Times editorial. Stopping this trend, the paper wrote, necessitates "reversing the legalization of share buybacks." Critics like the Times editorial board say stock buybacks, which were legalized in 1982, come at the expense of companies investing in workers.
The announcement of the stock buyback could be another point of controversy at a workplace already rife with internal conflict. The Times union and management are currently engaged in tense contract negotiations, which last December prompted the first strike at the paper in more than 40 years. Staff at the paper blasted their employer for a "wage proposal [that] still fails to meet the economic moment, lagging far behind both inflation and the average rate of wage gains in the U.S."
Profits at the Times have soared nearly 50 percent since 2016, from $240.9 million to nearly $350 million in 2022. Those figures, the union argues, should warrant significant wage hikes.
As a Times reporter told the New Yorker last December, the paper’s CEO Meredith Kopit Levien is more concerned with how she looks to investors by "fighting for better profits" than she is "about the paper’s long-term reputation," which would be bolstered by focusing less on Wall Street’s opinions. Levien’s management style appears to mirror the "unapologetic pursuit of profit" the Times blasted in its June 2020 editorial.
The Times also criticized how "in recent decades—as the U.S. economy expanded and CEO salaries skyrocketed—workers have been left behind." Levien received a $5.8 million salary in 2021, a significant raise from her 2020 salary of $4.4 million.
Neither the Times nor its union responded to a request for comment.
The Times initiated a $150 million stock buyback program in February 2022. Since then, the company has purchased $112 million worth of shares. New York Times stock has risen over 50 percent in the past five years.
The stock buyback program is not the first time the paper has engaged in behavior different from what it preaches. Last August, the Times’s union released a scathing report alleging systemic racism throughout the company.
According to internal data, zero black employees received the highest performance review rating in 2020—90 percent of the recipients of that rating were white employees. Those results, according to the union, have led to minority staff feeling "demoralized and alienated."