Media General Inc. dissidents seeking board seats at the newspaper publisher and broadcaster won the backing of proxy adviser ISS Governance Services, which said the company has "consistently underperformed its peers."
In a report Tuesday, ISS recommended stockholders of the media company elect Jack Liebau and Daniel Sullivan, put forward by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, and withhold support for Eugene Davis, Harbinger's third nominee.
Media General called their qualifications "questionable."
ISS is the second adviser to back Harbinger, after Glass Lewis & Co. recommended voting for Sullivan on Monday. The April 24 election may hinge on the vote of mutual-fund firm Gamco Investors Inc., which owns 22 percent of the Class A stock. Harbinger owns 18 percent.
The proxy adviser also said investors should reject Media General's nominees for the three board seats representing Class A stockholders.
Media General, based in Richmond, Va., publishes 25 daily newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Richmond Times-Dispatch, and owns 23 TV stations.
Harbinger wants the company to sell two Internet sites and the Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8.
On Monday, the Florida Communications Group, a subsidiary of Media General, offered voluntary buyouts to half the employees at the Tribune, WFLA-Ch. 8, TBO.com and several other news outlets in the Tampa Bay area.