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

Surveying the Globe-al manscape

Tom Gores

Tom Gores

A grateful Media Nation extends its thanks this morning to Tom Fielder, dean of Boston University’s College of Communication, for giving me an excuse to run this photo of Platinum Equity chairman Tom Gores one more time.

Fiedler cites the photo in explaining why Gores would have been all wrong for Boston if he had succeeded in purchasing the Boston Globe. Jessica Heslam and Christine McConville of the Boston Herald write:

Fiedler said if there was one story that signaled the sale wasn’t moving ahead, it was the Oct. 7 Globe piece on Platinum founder Tom Gores that included a photo of him “with his chest open, chest hair just puffing out.”

“This said to me, number one, the Globe editor who laid out this page doesn’t like this guy, and number two, this guy doesn’t understand Boston,” he said.

“Chest hair just puffing out”? Really? As I noted on Oct. 7, the day the Globe ran the photo, Gores was “[w]earing a flamboyantly pinstriped black suit jacket over a black shirt strategically unbuttoned to show off his smooth chest.” And I’ve had some serious and substantive discussions with fellow media analysts as to whether Gores may have partaken in some manscaping to achieve his smooth look.

It’s likely that Fiedler was too horrified to look closely.

In other Globe-related news, we learn in the Herald story that ballooning pension-liability costs were a major reason that the New York Times Co. ultimately failed in its attempt to sell the Globe either to Platinum or to a group led by former Globe executive Stephen Taylor. That was a story the Herald broke a week ago, so good on them.

In the Globe, Beth Healy and Robert Weisman report that Globe publisher Steve Ainsley would not rule out further cuts when he and Times Co. president Janet Robinson met with employees yesterday.

Over at Beat the Press, Ralph Ranalli quotes Globe staff member Scott Allen’s downbeat take on the meeting: “I think people probably came away from that meeting feeling like well, we know who our owner is, but we don’t see any improvement in our working conditions for some time to come.”

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  1. When Globies were absorbing cuts in benefits & pay, at least they could take solace in the notion that like people of a certain age getting gussied up for a singles dance to attract suitors, a leaner & less costly paper might draw a deep-pockets buyer. I concede that ax-wielding Platinum Equity was a scary prospect, but Globies still find themselves tethered to an arrogant, struggling NYT that warns of possible further cutbacks and will rightly save itself at the Globe’s expense if print journalism’s downward spiral continues. Yet there’s “cautious optimism” among Globies? I don’t get it. The status quo looks more like a “lose/lose,” than “win/win” proposition.

  2. Southie

    So you spend time with other media analysts discussing whether the guy has his chest hair groomed??

    • Dan Kennedy

      Southie: Hours and hours. I’m thinking of organizing a seminar on the subject.

  3. InsiderNegot

    Allen is about right, but at least the owner is a known quantity.

    If people were expecting any thing other than that they were mistaken. Conditions and benefits will improve when, and if, the Company improves.

  4. lkcape

    Petty comment, Dan, petty comment. Ironic that you feel so strongly about appearances when you wrote a book that says the opposite.

    A quiet reminder. He in his shirt is still a lot more successful in his chosen profession than you are in yours.

    Maybe it’s time for you to take off your glasses and unbutton your shirt.

  5. amused

    Interesting that no one has looked at the true state of Globe’s alleged unfunded pension obligations and the requirements under the Pension Protection Act of 2006 to fully fund pension plans over a seven year period.

    Yeah, I know, numbers make journalists’ heads hurt, but this spitback reporting that consists of sticking in a few words about “unfunded pension liability” is horrendous journalism, since the liability is not explained, nor is there any discussion or explanation of the legal requirements on the company to correct the problem. We don’t know if the numbers refer to an unfunded liability payable over retirees lifetimes, or if the 2006 Act imposes substantial funding requirements in the near-term.

    This is especially relevant in the case of Platinum, which isn’t in the business of publishing newspapes. It is in the asset-mining business. Would the Platinum strip the Globe of its assets and find a way to liquidate prior to the pension-funding deadline set by the 2006 Act, thus passing along the pension liability to the Pension Guaranty Corp?

    Before journalists pat themselves on the back on any reporting on this story, at least one of them ought to take a serious look at the pension issue, and not hide behind what they think they know about pensions based on reporting they have read about the government’s unfunded liabilities. The issue is bigger than that, and greater exploration should have been made of the implications of a sale to a company such as Platinum which is interested in acquiring and stripping assets and avoiding liabilities. Somebody should have looked into whether a Platinum purchase would put the Pension Guaranty Corp. in the on-deck circle. Instead, we see the all-too-typical cut-and-paste on a significant part of this story. Where does the union stand on the need for pension funding?

    Incredibly poor reporting on this front.

  6. InsiderNegot


    You have hit on one very important topic; The Pension Protection Act. I wish some serious journalist would take a look at what this mis-named Act has done to employees, companies and pensions.

    What may have been a well-intentioned attempt to protect workers’ pensions has put impossible demands, expectations and assumptions on pension funds to the point where the options for funds are few and difficult.

    When funds were able to base their actuarial assumptions over longer terms, which is reasonable it is a pension after all, they had much more flexibility in funding and benefit changes. The new requirements to ensure full funding in as little as seven years has hurt more that it has helped. The damage to pension benefits has been devastating and more companies are bailing out and paying the withdrawal liabilities, which can be paid over 20 or 25 years, or doing as amused suggests and dumping it on the PBGC.

    If this law is not changed, many jobs could be lost and companies will go out of business just as a result of the crushing pension liability exacerbated by this law.

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