Globe’s a tough sell
Newspaper hawked to hometown corporate elite
Several Hub business leaders have been approached about buying the Boston Globe, but so far there have been no takers, the Herald has learned.
Car magnate Herb Chambers – the subject of a big interview in the Globe over the weekend – said he was asked a week or two ago if he wanted to buy the money-losing broadsheet, but he declined.
“Somebody asked me if I would have an interest if it were for sale, but I said no,” said Chambers. “If we were still big advertisers in the Globe, maybe it would make sense, but it would be an expensive proposition. I really don’t have any interest.”
The New York Times [NYT] Co. expects the Globe to lose $85 million this year after finishing last year $50 million in the red. The Times Co. is demanding $20 million in concessions from the Globe unions by Friday.
Suffolk Construction honcho John Fish said the Globe’s fate has been the talk of the city’s corporate set. “There have been conversations in the city about whether someone would step in and buy it,” he said.
Fish echoed countless others when he expressed hope that a new owner would be someone local who values the paper more than its out-of-town parent company.
“I would hope that somebody locally would acquire it,” said Fish.
But, like nearly everyone else, when asked if he would step forward to buy the Globe, regardless of price, Fish declined.
“No,” he said. “It’s not my line of business.”
In fact, Fish said he didn’t know anyone who was interested in saving the paper. This is even after Beth Israel Deaconess boss Paul Levy’s blog rally, Boston Foundation head Paul Grogan’s focus group and public relations firm O’Neill and Associates’ “Save the Globe” rally on behalf of the Boston Newspaper Guild.
New England Patriots [team stats] owner Robert Kraft, another name that comes up when discussing possible Globe saviors, declined to comment on the paper’s fate, but a source said the Kraft family “kicked the tires and ran away.”
The Times Co. bought the Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993. A couple of years ago, former GE CEO Jack Welch and others looked at buying the Globe, valuing it at around $600 million.
Sources have said the price tag for the Globe that has been bandied about – ranging from $130 million to “what’s your best offer” – is still too much, given how far the paper’s costs and revenues are out of whack. Plus, no one wants to wrestle with the unions.
“The negotiations are so volatile right now that I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on,” said Fish.
Yesterday’s news that the Globe’s circulation continues to fall didn’t help to loosen any wallets. The paper’s average daily circulation in the six months ending March 31 dropped 13.6 percent to 302,638 copies and its Sunday circulation sank 11.2 percent to 466,655. (The Herald’s circulation dropped by 17.3 percent to 150,688 daily and 9.7 percent to 95,392 Sunday, while visits to bostonherald.com jumped 14 percent.)
But at least some investors see value in newspapers.
Last month, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Platinum Equity signed an agreement to purchase the San Diego Union-Tribune for an undisclosed sum.
Spokesman Mark Barnhill, who cautioned that the deal is not yet final, said, “In general, as we look at the newspaper industry, we think there are businesses in this industry that would present opportunities.”
When looking at possible investment opportunities, he added, the firm looks “to see if we have the resources to stabilize the business, and we also look to see if we can get it for the right price.”
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