By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

More on the Herald sale

Dan Primack’s latest:

First, it has been reconfirmed that the sale is for the entire company, which includes The Boston Herald, over 100 community papers in Eastern Massachusetts and a sweet piece of Boston real estate. Second, Wachovia [the firm that’s managing the sale] received over 10 first-round bids last Thursday from both strategic and private equity players, of which a handful will be invited back into Round 2. Third, Heritage Partners [which owns Quincy’s Patriot Ledger and Brockton’s Enterprise] is looking more like a seller than a buyer. If it is ultimately involved in this deal, expect it to package its Enterprise NewsMedia LLC platform along with Herald Media for a buyer looking for significant regional expansion. Finally, the whole thing should be wrapped up by the end of Q1 2006.

Very interesting. If this all plays out — and, granted, it sounds more complicated than the Red Sox’ attempt to move Edgar Renteria — it sounds like a big media company could move in and take charge not only of the Herald and its associated 100-plus community papers, but also of the Ledger and the Enterprise.

Two aspects of this are particularly worth watching:

1. Primack’s reporting would seem to suggest that Herald Media’s principal owner, Pat Purcell, is not looking just to replace the venture capitalists who want out, but to sell his entire company. Anything’s possible, of course, but it looks like the end of the Purcell era looms. Unless —

2. Whoever buys Herald Media is so smitten with Purcell’s newspaper-management skills that the new owners decide to keep Purcell on. But I wonder. By aggressively taking the Herald downscale over the past few years, it strikes me that Purcell blew the best opportunity he had to reinvent his flagship and turn it into something that would be more attractive to advertisers — not to mention readers.

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  1. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Doubt the real estate will be sold with everything else — unless it is sold and spun off almost immediately by the buyer. The land is just too valuable to be used to publish a sickly newspaper — and the note on the land involving Boston Herald Inc., Herald Realty Inc. G.E. Financial and Wachtovia is to big to be paid with newspaper revenues. Enough with the wishful thinking about “investors” or “recapitalizing.” The Herald is being sold and, if not numbered, its days are an increasingly precious few. The financial picture is grim now; once William Filene’s Sons’ Department Store joins Gilchrists and Jordan Marsh on the scrap heap of local history, and once we have one more cell phone company merger, display ad revenues will take a death blow. Talk of Purcell sticking around or investors tossing money at the paper are wishful thinking. The Herald seems destined to join the Post, the Evening Transcript, the Traveler, the Journal and so many other defunct Boston papers.

  2. Anonymous

    My theory since the FCC relaxed ownership rules has been that Rupert Murdoch would buy the Herald (et al) back and put Purcell on the board of NewsCorp. Purcell’s son-in-law Greg Rush (a present HM executive) would then become the head of what is, for the moment, the Herald Media empire. This is just my own speculation and has no basis in fact nor should be taken as a rumor. Also, it’s important to point out from a who’s who standpoint that Kirk Davis, now of the Ledger-Enterprise family, used to be CNC’s CEO during it’s Fidelity ownership. He exited ceremoniously a few months after the Herald buyout leading me to believe there is goodwill between Davis and Purcell. That might be why the “Ledgerprise” is also part of the deal.

  3. Anonymous

    The people who seem to want the Herald to disappear are going to be singing a different tune after the Globe is the only game in town for awhile.

  4. Amustedbutinformedobserver

    It will indeed be tragic to see the Herald suspend publication, since the Herald’s existence is the only thing that puts any juice at all into the Globe’s metro section. But the Herald is quickly slipping into irrelevance. Good reporting is marred by shameless self-promotion (cf. the Metro silliness and the effort to make an issue out of a Sunday Globe sports column) or the apparent contest on the copy desk to see who can get the word “outraged” into the most stories (the phrase “outraged pet owner” should garner bonus points”). Several months ago, The Herald gambled on tawdry. Tawdry is behind by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and I think I just heard the two-minute warning.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Am I missing something? The Herald’s got nine lives, and it’s only on #7 or #8 right now. You could see a drastic reorientation under a new owner, with or without Purcell. (I think the Examiner free-distribution model is a real possibility. Unfortunately, it would require another massive round of staff cuts.) But I don’t think there’s any reason to believe the Herald is going under tomorrow or a year from now. Here is a column I wrote last spring on how to improve the Herald.

  6. Rick in Duxbury

    I missed your suggestions to the Herald first time around, DK. You nailed it. Like many others on this board, you lean left. Unlike many of them, you are not an ideologue, afraid to even consider the opinions of those with whom you disagree. As a college town, Boston will always be more liberal than the country as a whole. A balancing voice like the Herald (or someone like them) is vital if we want to claim to be curious, intelligent people.

  7. mike_b1

    Is Boston liberal would make for a great article (perhaps it’s been done). I’ve lived in the DC suburbs, Milwaukee, Chicago, downstate Illinois and Providence. Having been in Boston for four years now, I find it to be as conservative as anywhere I’ve lived. When we moved in, our new neighbors asked (outright) what religion we are. The drivers are absolutely reckless and the state insurance system is a wreck, yet the populace is completely unwilling to change. The legal system is archaic.The state has elected four straight Republican governors. And if you are in politics or hold a patronage job you damn near have to die in order to lose it.There are still blue laws, for chrissakes! I never had any problem finding an open liquor store on a Sunday — not even in Georgia — until I moved here.The talk shows were/are dominated by conservatives.I even see pickups with gun racks.Why liberal? Because we have a senator named Kennedy (he doesn’t really live here, by the way), and gay marriage is legal (a good thing, albeit it’s by one vote)?Liberal? I don’t see it.

  8. Anonymous

    The vast majority of bostonians vote democrat but are socially conservative. Metrowest and the denizens of the tony communities south of the city tend to be “liberals.” This reality lends itself to the notion that a “conservative” paper like The Boston Herald and the Globe should have a built in audience in the metro area.

  9. Anonymous

    I didn’t think the Herald (Purcell)owns the property on which it sits. It may still be owned by Murdoch or even Hearst. For some reason I don’t think it was part of the initial deal. Someone might want to check that out. Either way, sad to say, the land is now probably worth more than the name.

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