William Taylor, the former Boston Globe publisher who died Sunday, was both lucky and good.
Lucky because his time as publisher coincided with an era of enormous prosperity in the newspaper industry. Good because he used that prosperity to transform the Globe into one of the best papers in the country. Under Taylor and the late editor Tom Winship, the Globe grew into a national-class paper with its own correspondents overseas and around the country.
For those who needed reminding, today’s obituary, by Bryan Marquard, explains why Taylor had to sell. With the paper on the verge of devolving to about 120 heirs, the only way Taylor could preserve the Globe’s legacy was to leave it in the hands of a good steward. He chose the New York Times Co., which paid an astounding $1.1 billion — half the Times Co.’s stock-market valuation at the time.
And if the Sulzbergers haven’t been quite the magnanimous owners Bill Taylor might have hoped for (especially when his second cousin Ben Taylor was sacked as publisher in 1999), they still have maintained the Globe’s quality to a far greater degree than a bottom-feeding chain like Gannett or a bankrupt behemoth like Tribune would have.
Bill Taylor’s death comes at a time when Ben Taylor and his cousin Steve, himself a former Globe executive, are seeking to return to some sort of ownership role as part of a group put together by local businessman Aaron Kushner.
The Taylor brand gives Kushner instant credibility — and it was Bill Taylor who was largely responsible for creating that brand.
Also: The Nieman Foundation pays tribute to Taylor.