A real bump in the road? Or just the Herald being the Herald when it comes to all things related to The Boston Globe?
Chris Cassidy reports in the Boston Herald that the group headed by Douglas Manchester, the right-wing businessman who owns the paper formerly known as the San Diego Union-Tribune, is squawking because its executives believe they offered more money for the Globe than Red Sox principal owner John Henry. Cassidy quotes John Lynch, the chief executive of U-T San Diego:
We bid significantly more than Henry. At the end of the day, I’m certain our bid was higher and could have been a lot more higher if they had just asked. I’m just stunned. I thought this was a public company that had a fiduciary duty to get the most by its stockholders…. From the beginning, I don’t think they wanted to sell to us.
Cassidy writes that the allegations “could delay the deal and leave the New York Times Co. open to shareholder backlash.”
Could they? No doubt we’ll learn more in the days ahead. One thing working in favor of the deal is that the Times Co. has two classes of stockholders, with the voting shares firmly under the control of the Sulzberger family and its allies. But that doesn’t mean the Sulzbergers are legally allowed to leave money on the table.
Last February, Boston Globe reporter Beth Healy wrote an article in which Times Co. vice chairman Michael Golden made comments that could be construed as at least somewhat contradictory. Here is how she began:
New York Times Co. vice chairman Michael Golden told Boston Globe employees Friday that the company has a duty to seek the highest bidder in a sale but aims to leave the newspaper in responsible hands.
“We have no intention to send the New England Media Group to the slaughterhouse,” he said in one of three town-hall style meetings with employees.
One way of interpreting that is that the Times Co. would select the highest qualified bidder — language often invoked so that (for example) a city council isn’t legally bound to award the trash-hauling contract to the low bidder if it turns out that he plans to burn it all in his backyard. Or that the Times Co. would be required to sell to the likes of “Papa Doug” Manchester.
In today’s Globe, Healy reports that, ultimately, what fueled the Henry bid was a lot of green, which may be what prevents the Manchester group’s complaints from rising to the level of seriousness. She writes:
His [Henry’s] was not the highest bid for the Globe, according to people involved in the process. But his offer was appealing to the Times Co. because it was cash, unencumbered by financing issues or a bevy of investment partners. One executive working for the Times Co. said the key was who was best able to get the financing together and close the deal relatively quickly.
It sounds like Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr., if pressed, will be able to make the case that he sold not just to the buyer most likely to preserve the Globe, but also to the one who was the best prepared to sit down and write a check. Money talks.