BOSTON — Now that The Boston Globe is again for sale, the next question is: Who will buy it? So let’s look at the pros and cons potential bidders will be weighing before jumping in.
‘Tough To Sell’ Any Paper
If you have, let’s say, $100 million to invest, you might do better putting your money elsewhere. Advertising revenue at the New England Media Group, which includes the Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, fell another 6 percent last year. While Globe subscriptions have stabilized, industry analyst John Morton says the paper is still struggling.
“It’s tough to sell any metropolitan newspaper these days,” Morton said, “even if you had one that didn’t have a competitor in the market, which of course you do in Boston in the Herald.”
Morton expects three types of potential buyers:
- private equity firms that look for ways to streamline costs or find new value to make a profit;
- a buyer looking for a mouthpiece;
- more civic-minded local investors.
All three types need deep pockets to withstand losses while they figure things out. One thing Morton says they don’t have to worry about is the journalism.
“You know, it’s not one of these situations where you’ll have to go in and replace everybody and try to do a lot of things over,” he said, “which can be a big disadvantage, particularly for somebody who doesn’t know very much about newspapers.”
The Taylors Again?
Morton expects the Taylor family to get involved. Those former owners sold the Globe to The New York Times Co. 20 years ago for a record $1.1 billion. Buying back the newspaper now could be selling high and buying low. And the Taylor family isn’t ruling that out.
“Uhhh… you know, it’s way early in the process to say that,” said former Globe publisher Ben Taylor. “It all depends on what kind of groups emerge and if people might be interested in partnering up in some way. Who knows?”
Some of the bigger names in newspapers are not expected to get involved. Rupert Murdoch seems more intent on bidding for The Los Angeles Times. Warren Buffett has been buying dailies by the dozen — small ones, though, not regional papers like the Globe.
Media analyst Ken Doctor expects a new name in newspapers to get involved — that of a greeting card company entrepreneur from Wellesley who’s just turning 40.
Will Kushner’s Group Try Again?
“Aaron Kushner’s group is logical. It’s the 2100 Trust group,” Doctor said. “They were rebuffed in buying the Globe a few years ago by the Times. Kushner will be in the mix.”
And this time, Kushner has some experience. His 2100 Trust bought The Orange County Register last year.
Ben Bergman covered that purchase for NPR member station KPCC in Los Angeles. He says many people were wary.
“Here comes Mr. Kushner, who’s an East Coast — no offense — person, who has no experience in newspapers. He ran a greeting card company,” Bergman said. “But he said he was going to grow the newsroom and to expand the print side, and he’s done exactly that. People have been pleasantly surprised with what he’s done so far.”
Kushner has added around 80 people to the newsroom at a newspaper that had been plagued by layoffs and bankruptcy. But Bergman says it’s hard to know if Kushner’s investment is paying off, because the books aren’t public.
“It really goes against conventional wisdom in the newspaper industry, and we just don’t know,” Bergman said. “A lot of people are a little bit skeptical and they’re still a little worried that at some point this experiment, if you will, will run its course and he’ll decide then it’s not sustainable.”
Kushner’s group has expressed interest in buying other metro newspapers, but he’s not commenting on The Boston Globe. It’s for sale. Buyer beware.