The Boston Globe is up for sale, again. The New York Times Co. said Wednesday that it has hired an investment firm to find a buyer for the Globe and related properties.
The Times wants to sell the New England Media Group, which includes:
- The Boston Globe
- The Worcester Telegram & Gazette
- GlobeDirect, the Globe’s direct mail marketing company
The Times company’s 49 percent interest in Metro Boston would be included in the sale.
In a statement, Times CEO Marc Thompson said the planned sale is part of a plan to “concentrate our strategic focus and investment on The New York Times brand and its journalism.”
"I think it’s kind of sad," said Ben Hill as he waited for the subway Wednesday. "I mean, I thought they weren’t going to sell it. Why are they doing it now? Why not just keep it?"
Hill, in his mid-30s, is a fish broker at a seafood company. He grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and says his hockey team would share a copy of the Globe while taking the boat to games.
"I remember being a little kid having it thrown on our stoop and our doorstep and thinking, 'Wow, this is The Boston Globe!' " he said. "Took a tour of The Boston Globe with our school and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. To me, it’s an institution to Boston."
An Institution At Risk
"We need it to thrive and survive and prosper, and when you don’t know who the next owner’s going to be, it just creates uncertainty," said Ben Taylor. He used to be the publisher of the newspaper read not just in Boston, but across New England. His family owned it for generations until 1993, when the Taylors sold it to the Times for more than $1 billion.
"I mean, the paper’s done pretty darn well under the Times’ management," Taylor said. "But I think it was probably inevitable."
The future for any newspaper is plenty to worry about in the age of the Internet. The Boston Globe is 140 years old, which matters little to Boston University freshman Sarah Abreu.
"I don’t really read newspapers," Abreu said.
Her friend Alex Kaufman does have to read the Globe occasionally for class.
"When I read it I feel a lot smarter," Kaufman said. "And I like knowing what’s going on. I pay attention online sometimes."
The Globe has been boosting its digital and hard-copy subscribers, but its advertising revenue has been falling. Profits were basically flat last year. It's why newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor says the Times will only get a small portion of what it paid for the Globe 20 years ago.
"My sense is the price is going to be somewhere between $100 million and $150 million," Doctor said. "That’s a relatively small price to pay for the prestige, and really the power, of The Boston Globe."
It’s not the first time the Times has tried to unload the Globe. Management cut staffers and other costs before shopping the Boston paper around for months in 2009. Doctor says the market for newspapers has stabilized. Even Warren Buffett has bought dailies around the country. The question now is not whether the Globe will sell, but to whom the Times will choose to sell it.
"The money is the money. And they may get a higher bid from one bidder than another," Doctor said. "But will they apply a civic interest as well to try to be a good steward as they pass the Globe to someone else?"
The Boston Globe managed one transition to new ownership back in 1993, and kept on winning Pulitzer Prizes, including the one for exposing clergy sex abuse 10 years ago.
The concern now is: Can it do it again?
This post was updated with Morning Edition feature content.
This article was originally published on February 20, 2013.