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.”

R.D. Sahl, who interviewed Sheehan in front of a business audience, noted the article reported that Henry didn’t meet with any potential local bidders. “He didn’t meet with anyone,” Sheehan said.

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.

Sheehan said the Globe is moving aggressively into video and wants to triple its video output over the next two years. Asked if he was hinting that a Globe newscast could be in the works, Sheehan responded: “I’m hinting that. We’d love to do that. We should be on TV.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

He said he didn’t know whether the recent departure of editorial page editor Peter Canellos from the paper signaled a shift in direction for the editorial page. “I think you will see more of a dialogue instead of a monologue,” he said, adding that those decisions will be made by interim editorial page editor Ellen Clegg.

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.