Big shareholder hopes to influence Media General


Various investment funds managed by Raymond Harbert and his associates have raised their total ownership of Media General to 18.4% and indicated in an SEC filing that they may seek seats on the company board. The investor group says it may also contact other “significant shareholders” regarding alternatives to enhance shareholder value. Media General’s stock price plunged nearly 43% last year.

The Harbinger Capital Partners funds, Harbert Management Corporation, portfolio manager Philip Falcone and others associated with Harbert have been aggressively buying Media General shares, nearly doubling their collective holdings in just a few weeks. They aren’t spelling out just what they want to change at Media General to unlock shareholder value, but they say they’ve been investing in the company because they think it represents “an attractive investment.”

TVBR observation: In his last conference call, CEO Marshall Morton was asked whether Media General was considering a move to split its newspaper and TV businesses into separate companies as Belo is doing. Morton dismissed the idea, saying that he sees value in keeping the operations together (10/19/07 TVBR #205). Our guess is that Harbert and Falcone may not share that view.