Longtime Seattle Times chronicler Bill Richards has the cover story of monthly Seattle Business. In it he reveals some interesting new details behind the turbulent past decade of the newspaper company and has an unflattering assessment of CEO and Publisher Frank Blethen.
In "Blethen's Choice: Decisions made to pull the family together have weakened the Seattle Times," Richards suggests that a deep history of dysfunction among members of the Seattle-area Blethen family, which has controlled the privately held Seattle Times Co. since 1896, shaped the small newspaper chain's character in good and bad ways.
Frank Blethen, Richards reports, saw the company as something of a salve for familial wounds. But while the family's growing emotional attachment to the newspaper company resulted in kinship and good journalism, that passion also led to a number of bad business decisions that hurt the company's chances for survival in the digital age. Says Tony Ridder, the former Knight Ridder CEO whose company owned 49.5 percent of the Seattle Times Co.'s voting stock: "The Seattle Times was a good newspaper. But Frank absolutely did not make good business decisions."