Can Aaron Kushner Save the Globe?

Aaron Kushner, the former CEO of a small South Shore greeting-card company, has a top-secret cure for the dying newspaper industry. And he plans to put it to the test by buying the Boston Globe.

aaron kushner

IN A CITY WHERE POWER is as entrenched as a Beacon Hill brownstone, where the coffee klatch of heavy hitters have been attending one another’s parties for decades, Aaron Kushner might as well be from another planet.

Prior to the Boston Herald splashing his photo across its website last October, no one who’s anyone around here seemed to have ever heard of the guy. Yet there he was, announcing that he, a former executive at a small greeting-card company, was going to buy this city’s paper of record: the Boston Globe.

That someone was declaring an interest in the Globe came as no surprise. Ever since 2009, when the New York Times Company announced it was putting the paper on the market, It’s become a kind of parlor game around town to guess which business titan or hedge-fund hotshot would be the next to step forward as a contender. Power brokers such as Jack Welch, Jack Connors, and Steve Pagliuca have all flirted with the idea of buying the paper.

It’s easy to understand why. The Globe is tough, independent, and nationally respected. A lot like the city it covers, actually. In fact, it’s hard to think of an institution more interwoven with Boston itself. The Red Sox, maybe. Harvard or MIT; one of the big hospitals. The list dwindles from there. In many ways, the paper is Boston. So it makes sense that from the moment the Taylor family sold the Globe to the Times Company in 1993 for $1.1 billion, the rich and sometimes famous have been trying to take it off chairman Arthur Sulzberger’s hands. If you happen to be a captain of industry or finance, what better way to demonstrate your influence than to own the Boston Globe?

But what if you’re a 37-year-old guy who’s lived in the area for only seven years? Who’s likely not on the invite lists to those power-elite parties? Then the announcement that you’re going to buy the paper will probably be greeted very much the way Aaron Kushner’s was last fall: with a collective shrug. Kushner’s story quickly disappeared, and then, so did he. We all went back to raking the leaves, dismissing him as a two-bit attention-seeker trying to pass himself off as a player.

But as I was about to discover, Kushner is serious about getting his hands on the paper, and he’s assembled a strong and well-connected team to help him do it. He insists he’s come up with a formula — the details of which he won’t reveal — to return the Globe and its sister paper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, to their days of glory. This plan, one of his investment partners believes, may even revolutionize the entire newspaper industry. In other words, if Kushner has anything to say about it, nobody in this city is going to underestimate him again.