New York Times Co. Ends Bid to Sell Boston Globe

Filed in Business, Headline, Local News by on October 14, 2009 0 Comments

For the first time in awhile, there is some good news to report about the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, the New York Times Co. announced its decision not to sell the Globe, citing a number of cost-saving measures the Boston paper implemented earlier this year. In a memo to Globe employees, Times Co. chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. and chief executive Janet Robinson cited the newspaper’s “significantly improved…financial footing” as the primary reason behind the decision not to sell off New England’s largest newspaper.Boston Globe & New York Times

Despite massive cuts in operating expenses undertaken by the Globe in the past year, the Times Co. still hoped to sell off the struggling newspaper, as well as fellow Massachusetts publication, the Worchester Telegram & Gazette. Bids came in from Stephen Taylor, a former Globe executive, and Platinum Equity, which owns the San Diego Union-Tribune; while the bids were not made public, they were reportedly for around $35 million.

The decision concludes, at least temporarily, a dramatic episode in the Globe’s history, one which peaked this summer with a threat from the Times Co. to close the Globe unless major financial improvements were made. The paper has hemorrhaged millions of dollars in recent years, due in large part to the market-wide trend of plummeting circulations and decreasing ad revenues.

The possibility of the Globe’s abrupt closure sparked fears that Boston would, like Denver, Seattle and Baltimore before it, be reduced to a one-paper town. Many feared a sudden vacuum of important local news, given that the Globe’s weekday circulation is roughly 300,000 – twice that of its competitor, the Boston Herald.

To avoid shutdown, the Globe rapidly undertook a series of drastic cost-cutting measures, slashing employee compensation by $20 million per year and consolidating printing facilities to save an estimated $18 million per year. The paper also agreed to eliminate lifetime job guarantees, which covered around 400 employees, as well as raising newsstand and delivery prices.

For now, the decision not to sell is good news for the Globe. Had the paper been punted off to the highest bidder it would have almost assuredly meant more cost cutting at the expense of quality. Shortly after Platinum Equity’s takeover over the Union-Tribune, 192 employees were laid off. A few months later, an undisclosed number of additional employees were let go.

In the long run, however, the Globe may not fare so well. The decision not to sell is less a sign that the Times Co. truly wants to keep the Globe than it is an indicator that the company didn’t find the bidding price high enough to warrant a sale.

But if the Globe continues to lose money, or if a more desirable offer is presented, a sale would again be possible—and along with it, the prospect of further downsizing at a paper which has already fired staffers and closed bureaus.

Hopefully something serendipitous can save the Globe. If not, news coverage of the city and state will suffer and reader’s will be forced to either rely on the sensationalism sans substance of the Herald, or to forgo local news altogether.

Photo credit: Pierre Lascott

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