In what may prove to be very good news for readers of the Boston Globe, a group led by Stephen Taylor — a prominent member of the family that sold the paper to the New York Times Co. in 1993 — has, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, moved into the pole position to buy the paper.
Beth Healy reports in today’s Globe that Taylor and California-based Platinum Equity have made it to the next round, and that both groups will tour the paper around Labor Day. Meanwhile, a group led by Partners HealthCare chairman Jack Connors and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca — pointedly described as having submitted “the lowest bid” — will be on the outside looking in. Whether that might change is unclear.
No new owner of the Globe, not even a Taylor, is going to restore the glory days. But the Taylors were very good stewards of the paper, and Stephen Taylor, a former Globe business executive, is said to be one of the sharper members of his family. In addition, a Media Nation source who knows him tells me he’s a good guy.
Connors, too, is a good guy. But he’s also involved in just about every civic and business group in Greater Boston, and it’s hard to believe he could offer the Globe the sort of independent leadership it needs. Given that he and Pagliuca are said to be interested in pursuing some sort of non-profit arrangement, you also have to wonder whether they’ve got enough capital to pull it off.
According to Healy, both the Taylor group and Platinum submitted bids to buy the Globe, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and Boston.com for about $35 million (a far cry from the $1.1 billion the Times Co. paid 16 years ago for just the Globe) and agreed to assume $59 million in pension liabilities.
Given that Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. recently said price will not be the only consideration, I would think a group with deep roots in both Boston and journalism would have an advantage over Platinum, whose executives may be interested mainly in the real estate.
For big-money investors, $94 million is not an enormous sum. I suspect that what will separate the winner from the losers in this deal is the willingness and ability to keep losing money until the paper can be restructured into a profitable business. And yes, I’m confident that someone can do it.
More: Over at Beat the Press, Ralph Ranalli laments the exclusion of the Connors group, arguing that non-profit is the only viable model for the newspaper business moving forward. Ralph and I agree, though, that Platinum would be bad news all around.