OLD Media Moves

The Deal Professor, the New York Times and M&A coverage

January 23, 2012

Posted by Chris Roush


Last year, New York Times tech columnist David Pogue was criticized for agreeing to make an appearance at a paid event for a public relations firm related to the tech industry.

Although Pogue is a freelancer, he is a well-known byline for the business section. He agreed to present his appearances to the Times editors before agreeing to them.

Now, similar questions are being raised about another Times business writer who also is not a full-time staffer.

Steven M. Davidoff, writing as “The Deal Professor,” is a columnist for the Times’s DealBook on mergers and acquisitions. A former corporate attorney at Shearman & Sterling, he is a professor at the Michael E. Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.

Last year, Davidoff was hired as an expert for the plaintiffs in shareholder litigation involving Dell’s acquisition of Compellent Technologies. In a Dec. 9 opinion issued in Delaware Chancery Court, Davidoff is prominently mentioned. On p. 29 of the opinion, it states, “Davidoff is more popularly known for his regular column on the DealBook website, where he writes as ‘The Deal Professor.'”

The opinion also notes that Davidoff assisted in the negotiations and helped draft modifications to the deal’s agreement.

Writing on April 7, 2011, Davidoff mentioned the deal, but only briefly. On Dec. 7, 2010, after the deal had been announcement, Davidoff also wrote about the deal. Neither story mentioned Davidoff’s work involving the deal.

To be clear, he wrote about this case before he did the consulting, not after. He wasn’t conflicted at the time he wrote the main item because he hadn’t done any work for them at the time.

Times business editor Larry Ingrassia was asked by Talking Biz News to address Davidoff’s work in this case and his agreement with the paper regarding outside work.

Ingrassia replied by e-mail: “We didn’t realize that Steven Davidoff had done this consulting work until it was brought to our attention after the fact. And no, it isn’t okay for him to do this type of consulting under our agreement, and he didn’t receive an exemption. He apologized and said it was a lapse, and agreed to donate this consulting fee to charity at our request.

“We have again made clear that he can’t consult regarding any case that he has written about for us, and can’t write for us about any case for which he has been a consultant. He said there wouldn’t be any further lapses.”

If you’d like a copy of the court ruling that mentions Davidoff and his work at the Times, e-mail croush@email.unc.edu.

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