Globe CEO Sheehan talks business, Henry
Property sale, expanded business section on tap
Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan says the company is sifting through final bids for its property on Morrissey Boulevard and preparing to launch an expansion of the newspaper’s business section.
In a breakfast talk on Wednesday at Fenway Park’s EMC Club sponsored by Denterlein Worldwide, the ever-upbeat Sheehan discussed a wide range of topics – everything from the Globe on TV to new hires, a new leader of the newspaper’s editorial page, and a CommonWealth story on Globe owner John Henry’s decision to sell the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to a Florida chain.
Henry told the Telegram & Gazette staff that he hoped to find a local buyer for the newspaper and, if that didn’t happen, hold on to the newspaper himself. Instead, he sold the paper to a Florida-based chain and cut the staff by 25 percent. The headline of CommonWealth’s article was “The man who lied to Worcester.”
“That’s not really fair,” Sheehan said of the headline, pointing out that no local bidders came forward. “John doesn’t lie. He would have loved to sell it to a concern in Worcester.”
In connection with the story, Henry issued a statement to CommonWealth that didn’t address many of the concerns about the Worcester sales process. “My focus is clear – a Boston Globe that is known for its journalistic excellence and sustainable business model,” he said in the statement. “The Worcester Telegram & Gazette was outside that focus, so I sold it after a thorough process in which no local parties chose to participate.”
Sheehan, who previously ran the advertising firm Hill Holliday, reiterated that Henry’s focus is on the Globe. “I do believe it’s his legacy. As much as the Red Sox, the Globe will be his legacy,” Sheehan said. “He’s never going to sell it.” Henry is also the principal owner of the Red Sox.
Sheehan said the Globe is profitable, but declined to provide any numbers. He also said Henry is not pumping money into the operation. “We’re doing this on our own,” he said.
Sheehan was tight-lipped about the process to sell the Morrissey Boulevard property, where the Globe’s offices and printing presses have been located since the 1950s. Bids for the property were received in mid-September and a second bid process was then launched. “We’re very happy with where it’s gone so far,” Sheehan said.
The newspaper plans to sell the property with a lease-back provision allowing operations to continue in Dorchester for two to three years while office space is found downtown and printing operations are consolidated elsewhere. The assumption had been that printing would be handled at a former Telegram & Gazette plant in Millbury that Henry retained when he sold the Worcester newspaper, but Sheehan said the presses could end up being located closer to Boston.
Tom Hynes, the CEO of Colliers International, which is handling the sale of the Morrissey Boulevard property, said the Globe will soon put out a request for proposals for office space in Boston.
According to Sheehan, the size of the news staff at the Globe has remained flat since Henry acquired the newspaper last year. But he said the Globe is preparing to add about 15 new employees, most of them for an expanded business section that will launch in the coming weeks.
As for endorsements in this year’s governor’s contest, Sheehan said he will play no role but Henry will definitely have a say. Many times during the course of his remarks Sheehan referred to the owners of the Globe as John and Linda, referring to Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti, who is listed on the newspaper masthead as managing director. Sources say both Henry and Pizzuti sat in on editorial board meetings with the candidates for governor during the run-up to the September primary, and Pizzuti was in the room taking notes when the decision was made to endorse Republican Charlie Baker and Democrat Steve Grossman.