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John Henry’s Deal To Buy The Boston Globe Brings Optimism

BOSTON — Red Sox principal owner John Henry has entered into an agreement to purchase the 141-year-old Boston Globe from The New York Times Company.

Just like that buoyant feeling of optimism that comes around every February when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, there seems to be a hopeful feeling in the air that Henry’s purchase of the Globe will be good news for the struggling newspaper business.

The Globe has been on the block since February, as its parent company, The New York Times, seeks to unload its New England Media holdings. The purchase price, $70 million, is considerably less than the $1.1 billion the Times paid for the Globe back in 1993.

“If he just approaches this as a business and doesn’t look at it as some kind of a toy that he can play with, then I think the Globe will be the better for it. And John Henry will be the better for it.”
– John Carroll, professor of mass communications at Boston University

For his money, Henry gets the Globe’s newspaper, its real estate holdings, websites — Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com — as well as The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. He also picks up a 49 percent share of the Boston Metro.

“I think he’s a smart businessman. Obviously, he’s worth $1.5 billion,” said Boston University mass communications professor John Carroll, who likes the prospects of a deep pocketed owner.

“It’s an interesting dilemma for him. How much does he want to invest in it? How much does he want to beef up the Globe?” Carroll asked. “Or how much does he want to sort of keep it profitable and keep it as a viable, regional newspaper?”

Henry is not commenting publicly on his purchase, nor is it clear what, if any, changes he may make. But Carroll said Henry should not attempt to meddle with the Globe’s editorial content.

“John Henry may want to bring in his own people. But, in a way, if he just approaches this as a business and doesn’t look at it as some kind of a toy that he can play with, then I think the Globe will be the better for it,” Carroll said. “And John Henry will be the better for it because it gets awfully sticky and awfully complicated when the owner starts prowling through the newsroom. Just look at Rupert Murdoch.”

Inside the Globe newsroom, staffers did not want to go on the record. One longtime employee told WBUR confidentially that Henry seems like a good guy who cares about the paper and has a vested interest in making things work.

Former Globe reporter and now Northeastern University professor Walter Robinson is hopeful Henry can maintain the same excellence of journalism at the Globe that he has brought to his other endeavors, most especially the Red Sox.

“My hope, my expectation is that nothing will change, that the paper will continue to do the kind of reporting that only the Globe could do,” Robinson said, citing the Globe’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. “That takes a really robust, energetic, smart news staff and a commitment to that kind of coverage. And I expect that won’t change.”

At the Crimson Corner newsstand in Harvard Square in Cambridge, the news of Henry’s purchase of the Globe was well received by owner Chris Kotelly.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s wonderful that somebody locally that has a good business plan and a good business track record to keep the Globe going. I think it’s a great paper,” Kotelly said. “And it’s certainly done well for us as a newsstand and other newsstands in the area.”

One customer who stopped by the newsstand to pick up a copy of the Globe — who only gave his name as Edward from Somerville — wishes Henry well.

“I think he’s a good guy. I think he’s a good business guy, knows what’s going on. I think he’ll bring a lot to The Boston Globe. I think it’ll be good for it,” Edward said.

Henry indicated in a statement that more announcements regarding the sale will be forthcoming in the next few days. The purchase should be finalized by October.

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