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

Tag: Stephen Taylor

And then there was one?

Venture capitalist John Ellis, a former Boston Globe columnist who’s been nosing around the Globe situation for months, posted an intriguing tidbit [update: but apparently wrong; see below] on Twitter a little while ago:

there’s a rumor about that Platinum Equity declined to make a “final” bid on the Boston Globe. I wonder if its true.

If Platinum is out of the picture, that would presumably leave the group put together by former Globe executive Stephen Taylor as the only remaining interested buyer. But do Taylor and company have enough capital to get the New York Times Co. to say “yes”?

I also wonder if this might pave the way for a comeback by Boston businessman Jack Connors, whose proposal to take the Globe non-profit was left by the side of the road a few months ago.

Wednesday morning update: Well, so much for that rumor. The Globe’s Beth Healey reports that both groups submitted bids for the Globe, and that a third group submitted a bid for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Deadline day for the Boston Globe sale

Tomorrow is the day that the New York Times Co. has set to accept final offers to sell the Boston Globe. And Media Nation is picking up some well-informed buzz that things are not going well with either of the two prospective buyers — a group led by former Globe executive Stephen Taylor or Platinum Equity, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Like any reader of the Globe, I have a rooting interest in this. I’d like to see the Taylors make a comeback. But even if they can pull this off, you have to wonder if they’ll be so under-capitalized that the cutting will resume almost immediately.

Show us the money

Will the Taylor group really be able to pull off a deal to buy back the Boston Globe from the New York Times Co.? Today’s Globe piece on Stephen Taylor’s quest to acquire the paper his family sold in 1993 reports that he’s having some trouble scaring up enough money. Beth Healy writes:

Some wealthy Bostonians spurned Taylor’s early overtures, wary of investing in what they consider a dying industry, according to people involved in the bid. With final offers due tomorrow, Taylor is still scurrying to raise money. He has to convince investors he has what it takes to make it in a radically shifting newspaper landscape, despite having been out of the business for nearly a decade.

That fits with information I reported two weeks ago, when I wrote that the Taylor group was still trying to line up investors.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam reports that the price of purchasing the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette may have risen substantially. Both Taylor and Platinum Equity, the only other serious bidder, have reportedly offered to pay $35 million and to assume $59 million in pension liabilities. Now, though, Heslam quotes anonymous “insiders” who say that the esimate of pension liabilities has nearly doubled, to $115 million.

Hard to tell what’s going on here. Heslam quotes a Times Co. spokeswoman who says something that sounds vaguely like a denial, but not really. So, for the moment, let’s proceed under the assumption that Heslam’s sources are right. Will this kill the deal? Especially with the under-capitalized Taylor bid?

It’s possible that the Times Co. will be forced to eat some of that $115 million, like Theo Epstein getting rid of another overpaid, under-performing shortstop. Even though the Globe carefully notes that it’s “conceivable the Times Co. won’t sell the paper,” Poynter Institute media analyst Rick Edmonds recently noted that the Times Co. would lose substantial tax advantages if it doesn’t sell by the end of 2009.

It will be fascinating to see what gets announced tomorrow. That is, if there’s an announcement.

Stayin’ alive with Platinum Equity

Tom Gores

Tom Gores

One can only imagine the glee that folks at the Boston Globe must have felt when they came across a photo of prospective owner Tom Gores looking like he’s starring in the community-theater remake of “Saturday Night Fever.” The photo leads a long piece on Gores’ tenure at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Wearing a flamboyantly pinstriped black suit jacket over a black shirt strategically unbuttoned to show off his smooth chest (and don’t miss the black-and-white polka-dot handerchief), Gores comes across as an exceedingly unlikely candidate to stabilize the Globe’s finances while preserving its journalism. The story dwells in some detail on embarrassing facts about Gores’ personal life as well.

I should note that the photo is credited to Gores’ firm, Platinum Equity. So he must be quite proud of it.

Still, you never know. Platinum is one of two groups in the running to purchase the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from the New York Times Co. The other, favored by most people I talk with, is headed by former Globe executive Stephen Taylor and former Globe publisher Ben Taylor, prominent members of the family that sold the paper to the Times Co. in 1993.

Platinum Equity has been the subject of fascination since it acquired the Union-Tribune earlier this year. But as the Globe story notes, though the paper’s staff has been slashed to ribbons, the Union-Tribune is now on track to turn a small profit this year. Quality matters; but nothing is possible at a paper that keeps bleeding cash.

The non-profit news site Voices of San Diego, which has been keeping a watchful eye on Platinum, recently ran a piece containing what might be described as cautious praise. The story quotes an anonymous staff member following a meeting with management: “I went into the meeting not super-receptive, given that this is the management team that had laid off more than 100 people the day before. I came out feeling better about the future of the paper than I have in two years.” The story continues:

Two other newsroom workers agreed with that assessment, and all three said they were hopeful and impressed by the new management’s willingness to criticize the old regime. (The staff members requested anonymity for fear of antagonizing the new bosses.)

The positive feelings are remarkable considering how the U-T has been plagued by poor morale and severe financial troubles in recent years. The paper has physically shrunk by about half since 2006, and several rounds of layoffs and buyouts have eliminated about half of all jobs companywide.

To be sure, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit at the Union-Tribune. Employees still paste up pages manually, a labor-intensive practice that is now being eliminated. But for the Union-Tribune to achieve financial stability so quickly, and for management now to be talking about growth, is an impressive achievement given the dire straits in which the newspaper business finds itself.

Still, I’d certainly feel better if the Taylor group prevails. Yes, the Globe has to succeed as a business. But with the Taylors, I’m more confident that managers would seek to define the journalistic mission first, then figure out how to pay for it.

The Globe’s coming back tomorrow with a look at the Taylor group. I expect to see a photo of Steve and Ben dressed in tasteful, non-ostentatious business suits, their jackets off and their sleeves rolled up, serving meals at a homeless shelter before heading in to work.

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