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Times adds two directors to avoid fight

The New York Times Co. defused a standoff Monday with its largest outside shareholder, Harbinger Capital, by agreeing to support two people nominated by the hedge fund as directors at its annual meeting next month.

Harbinger had accumulated a 19 percent stake in the company in recent weeks, rivaling the amount held by the Sulzberger family. The Sulzbergers still control the company through a special class of shares, which allow them to name 70 percent of the board.

The Times will expand its board from 13 to 15 to accommodate the new nominees, one of whom is Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor and shareholder activist who has been advising Harbinger. The Times has also agreed to support James Kohlberg, co-founder of the investment firm Kohlberg & Co., as a director.

Harbinger and Galloway have argued that the Times need to take drastic action to shed assets outside of its core newspaper and invest aggressively in building up its online businesses.

Northwest Airlines has matched the fare increase announced last week by Continental and United, and signaled that belt-tightening measures are on the way, too.

Oil has been selling at record highs, pushing up the cost of jet fuel and cutting into income.

Doug Steenland, chief executive, said the airline will spend $1.7 billion more on fuel than it expected when it emerged from bankruptcy in May.

“The chief executive of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. got compensation valued at $12.6 million in 2007, 3 percent more than the year before, as the railroad operator’s profits slipped but its stock rose nearly 13 percent.

Apart from his 2007 compensation, Matthew K. Rose also exercised options or had shares vest last year that the company valued at $34.7 million, according to a proxy statement filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to get further financial leeway from the government, enabling the mortgage-finance companies to expand their roles in the stricken housing market.

The federal regulator that oversees Fannie and Freddie has been discussing with them an arrangement in which the cash cushion they are required to maintain – now nearly $20 billion for the two – could be reduced, several people familiar with the matter said Monday. Under a deal that could be announced as soon as this week, the freed-up money would be put into buying mortgages of struggling borrowers so they could refinance into more affordable loans.