Who Wants to Be a Boston Globe Owner?

The multi-million dollar question has a lot of potential answers.

murdoch2Image Credit: World Economic Forum via Flickr

Updated at 1:30 p.m.: News that The New York Times Co. is once again seeking a buyer for The Boston Globe yields an obvious and immediate question. As The Atlantic Wire puts it: Who wants to be a millionaire…owner of a respected metro newspaper? In fact, there’s probably not one but three good questions worth asking when we muse on potential buyers: Who wants to buy The Boston Globe? Who is even able to buy The Boston Globe? And who should buy The Boston Globe? Is this someone who will invest enough money and lead the company in a direction that allows the Globe to execute its mission?

People have put forward dozens of names—Ira Stoll alone has a list of 26—ranging from obvious and plausible to wildly unlikely to oh-god-please-don’t-let-it-be-him, and we won’t run through all of the names put forward in the last few days. But here are some answers to those three questions for some of the names we do keep seeing over and over.

Local car dealership magnate and generally large personality Ernie Boch Jr. becomes the first to actually express interest, according to Boston Business Journal. “Ernie is teaming up with Bruce Mittman, president and CEO of Mittcom (the Newton marketing agency), and partner in Community Broadcasters (the radio station group in upstate New York). Together they bring the financial resources and decades of experience in media and marketing necessary to make this purchase viable,” his reps say in a statement to BBJ. Learn more about him from our lengthy 2005 profile. Immediately, folks are expressing a range of emotions at the prospect of a larger-than-life owner like Boch.

On the more speculative side:

Rupert Murdoch: No question Rupert Murdoch could afford the Globe. The greater difficulty for him would be getting around the FEC rules about owning a TV station and a print outlet in the same media market. (He owns Fox 25 and he ran into trouble with this when he owned the Boston Herald.) Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff seems to think he’d be interested. As for whether he’d be good for the Globe, that very much depends whom you ask, but we’re certainly not lacking in information on how he runs a newspaper. Just look to The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London, or (heh) the News of the World. Most interesting to watch would be the clash between his politics and those of the Globe. 

The Taylor Family: These guys sold the Globe to The New York Times in the first place. “Cousins Stephen and Benjamin Taylor are the key figures,” notes Stoll. Do they want it? Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor says they were interested in buying it last time The New York Times tried to unload in 2009. That suggests that they’d be interested again this time around, but also that they weren’t considered an ideal buyer by the Times. (Whether someone seemed ideal four years ago isn’t completely telling because circumstances have changed, mostly because of pension obligations, as Doctor explains.) Should they buy the Globe? Well, it’s the family legacy, so you’d guess that they’d want to take good care of it.

Aaron Kushner: Then 37 and living in Wellesley, Kushner and a group of investors made a high-profile bid to buy the Globe in 2011, which this magazine covered at length. Since then, he’s bought the Orange County Register and set his eyes on other papers, notably the Los Angeles Times, which may be a signal that he’s moved on. Could he buy The Globe? The Times rejected him last time, but who knows? Should he buy it? At least according to Doctor, he’s invested heavily in expanding the Orange Country Register, and his bid to buy the Globe came alongside a plan to return the paper “to their glory days” and “revolutionize the entire newspaper industry,” so at least he talks a good game.

Warren Buffett: There’s no question Buffett can afford the Globe. And he’s made a very public play to buy up and invest in community newspapers.  But he’s got no obvious connection to Boston, he’s never expressed interest in the Globe, and he’s stayed away from other struggling metros like the New Orleans Time Picayune in favor of smaller operations, notes Doctor. So until he expresses interest, this seems like wishful thinking (both for Globe fans and the New York Times.)

Jack Welch: Here’s a name everyone mentions but no one seems to take seriously. The former G.E. exec makes the list because he’s expressed interest in the Globe before, but everyone thinks he’s moved on. Stoll sums it up: “He’s 77 and spends a lot of time in New York. He might be a minority partner, but it’s hard to see him leading an effort to buy the Globe.”

Jack Connors: The prominent retired businessman certainly has a net worth and connection to Boston that make him a candidate. He’s been linked as an investor to at least three attempts to buy the Globe, according to the Herald. Is this something we want? He’s certainly a generous spender—he gives away millions every year—but he’s never owned a newspaper, so it’s hard to know.

The list is by no means exhaustive, but really, until someone starts publicly making moves, even a list of this length is just media water-cooler talk. It’s a bit like beating one’s head against the wall to sit and wonder whether Mitt Romney might buy a newspaper, so until he convinces us otherwise, we’ll leave it here. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy the absurd photoshop efforts undertaken by the salivating masses at the Boston Herald.