Is Jack Connors the Last King of Boston?

M/C OFFERS AN EXAMPLE of Connors’s business acumen — but it also shows how entangled his interests have become. Connors sold M/C while serving as chairman at Partners. Yet he never directly disclosed his stake in M/C to the Partners board, even though his company had relationships with numerous Harvard Medical School professors — professors that are affiliated with Partners’ hospitals.

Last year, the Globe ran a story saying that Connors had failed to disclose this potential conflict of interest. That story, however, only compounded how intertwined Connors’s business interests had become. The piece appeared at the same time Connors was attempting to buy the Globe.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Kurkjian had spent about six months reporting the story, part of a larger series called “The Partners Effect,” which examined the effect of the state’s largest healthcare provider on the rates everyday families paid for medical insurance in Massachusetts. The Globe’s Spotlight Team began publishing stories on Partners in late 2008, and continued through the spring of 2009. By the time Kurkjian’s story on Connors and M/C Communications ran, on May 31, 2009, the Globe itself was facing closure. The New York Times Company, the Globe’s owner, had threatened to shut down the paper unless its unions agreed to a series of cuts in pay and benefits. In the midst of this threat, potential bidders began speaking to the paper. Connors was one of them. In other words, he wanted to buy the paper at the very time it was investigating him — for an alleged conflict of interest.

All of this had a curious effect on Kurkjian’s piece. The tenor was so careful that it muddied the story’s point. It takes a couple of reads to figure out that Connors probably should have told the other Partners trustees about his stake in M/C Communications. “That story kind of landed like a thud,” says one person who worked on the series for the Globe. (Connors said in the piece that he told Partners executives about M/C, who thought he didn’t need to disclose it to the board.)