Media General To Harbinger: You Just Don’t Get Us

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

In another series of dueling presentations to an influential proxy advisor, Media General Inc. on Tuesday accused dissident shareholder Harbinger Capital Partner of failing to understand its strategy, and getting wrong the few specifics Harbinger offered as alternatives in its own dog-and-pony show the day before.

The Media General presentation, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), ridiculed Harbinger’s suggestion the Richmond, Va.-based publisher and broadcaster pursue more radio duopolies, sell NBC-affiliated TV stations as the political campaign ad season is on its way, and — especially — consider selling The Tampa Tribune in the troubled Florida market.

This is the “worst possible time to sell a large market newspaper,” Media General said. “There isn’t a single good new idea in Harbinger’s ‘prescription.'”

In its own presentation to RiskMetrics Group, the proxy advisor that was previously known as Institutional Shareholder Services, Harbinger hammered away at the company’s falling stock, the poor prospects for improvement at its Florida papers, and argued that its directors do not represent the average shareholder. Media General broadcast properties, in particular, underperform peers with higher expenses, Harbinger said Monday.

Harbinger holds an 18.2% stake in Media General, and girding for a proxy showdown over three seats on the board of directors at the company’s April 24 annual meeting. Media General has repeatedly dismissed the candidates as unqualified.

Referring to Harbinger’s April 1 presentation to another investor group, Media General said it was the first time it had heard “Harbinger’s ‘prescription’ for Media General: ‘Do better” (clothed in B-school jargon).”

Media General (NYSE: MEG) ended trading Tuesday up 1 cent, or 0.07, to $15.02. It has traded in a 52-week range of $13.79 to $39.50.

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