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

What to watch for as the Globe sale heats up

CA_SDUTBeth Healy today offers an update on who might buy The Boston Globe and its related properties, which include the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and She reports that eight potential buyers are circling, and that the deadline for submitting bids is June 27.

Three story lines worth following:

1. The Taylors are still in the mix. It would be a comeback of epic proportions if Steve and Ben Taylor were to repurchase the Globe 20 years after their family sold it to the New York Times Co. for $1.1 billion. And for those of us who want to see the Globe wind up in responsible local hands, it would probably represent the best outcome.

The question since 2009, when the Taylors made their first failed attempt to reacquire the Globe, is whether they can raise enough money to buy the paper and run it properly. Maybe the Taylors can combine forces with the Kraft family, who own the New England Patriots and are said to be interested.

Former Globe president Rick Daniels is in the mix as well. But he’s partnering with a private-equity executive, which raises all kinds of red flags.

2. The “face of hell” emerges. “Papa Doug” Manchester, as he likes to be known, bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2011 and renamed it U-T San Diego, which ought to be reason enough to disqualify him. But it gets worse. Manchester, a hotel magnate, is a conservative opponent of same-sex marriage who has shaped his paper’s coverage to serve his business interests. Here is a charming excerpt from a profile of Manchester by Voice of San Diego’s Rob Davis:

Few San Diegans could have evoked the visceral cancel-my-subscription-today reaction that Manchester did when he bought the Union-Tribune. He has a reputation: egomaniacal, short-tempered, litigious, unrelenting. Some fear him. Two politically connected people warned me not to write a negative word about him. “If there is a hell, Doug Manchester is the face of it,” one said.

And now he’s said to be interested in the Globe.

3. The Globe’s headquarters may be sold. Healy reports that several prospective buyers would sell the Globe’s Dorchester plant if they succeed in buying the media properties. This strikes me as odd, since the Globe has had some success in taking on outside printing jobs such as the Boston Herald, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy and The Enterprise of Brockton.

I don’t understand how the Globe can keep the presses rolling unless it stays put. On the other hand, space isn’t exactly at a premium at 135 Morrissey Blvd. these days. Maybe the idea is to sell the building, lease back part of it and rent out the rest.

No doubt we’ll learn more in the weeks to come.

Image via Today’s Front Pages at the Newseum.

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  1. When Brian McGrory spoke at MIT some weeks ago, he noted that, almost universally, newspapers have abandoned press plants that are in cities. The real estate is worth much more to a developer than it is to a newspaper, and the Globe location, right by the T, fits the current model of mass transit oriented development. You could, pretty much, build a whole new community there, if you were so inclined. Presumably, a new owner would sell the land and use the proceeds to build a new printing plant out somewhere where land is cheaper.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Saul: I wish I’d come to that. I would have liked to ask McGrory whether it made any sense to build a new printing plant anywhere in 2013. Although I suppose you could buy a warehouse and move the presses there. Expensive, but perhaps more than offset by the income you’d get from selling 135 Morrissey Blvd. Some very interesting possibilities out there, that’s for sure.

      • To the right developer, with the right concessions from the City, that land is likely worth mcu more than the newspaper business itself. One thing to keep an eye on is whether whoever buys is buying land with a newspaper attached, or a newspaper that has a very valuable asset, the land it happens to own.

  2. That land is possibly worth quite a bit, given all the development planned along Morrissey and on Columbia Point. Or maybe Ernie Boch will buy it just so he can stand on the roof and stick his tongue out at Herb Chambers.

  3. Is the idea behind selling the headquarters in Dorchester that they would build a plant that was cheaper to maintain outside of the city?

  4. Or to out source printing completely?

  5. DK – on a strictly operational basis, have you SEEN Boston commercial property tax rates? And the excise tax rates on the equipment? It would make more sense to print the Globe in the Worcester print plant. While rates are high, it’s nothing like Boston. (This might explain the phenomenon of plants abandoning cities)

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Cynthia: Worcester? The intrigue deepens. But keep in mind that the Globe and the T&G might very well end up with two different owners.

  6. Isn’t the Globe AND, at the least, maybe the Metro, the Telegram, AND the Boston Herald printed at the ‘state-of-the-FSI-Globe printing plant north of Boston (?). The Globe 136 Morrissey Blvd office/fka the Globe/office print plant is prime semi-downton real estate. A new buying group would certainly leverage THAT into the buyout equation. We are in a digital world, the brick and mortar is less important… just ask the Herald (which is NOT dead just yet).

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