Is John Henry a local?
Globe owner’s primary residence is in Florida
John Henry says he bought the Boston Globe because the newspaper needs “private, local ownership” in order to prosper. But there’s a flaw in his reasoning: He isn’t a local.
He spends a significant amount of time in the Boston area as the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and also hangs his hat at a 36,000-square-foot mansion in Brookline that is assessed at $19.5 million. But he lives 1,500 miles away in Boca Raton, Florida. That’s where he owns a nearly 40,000-square-foot home valued at nearly $8.2 million. The property comes with a tax exemption contingent on it being his primary residence. To qualify for the exemption, Henry had to produce a Florida driver’s license, a Florida vehicle registration, and a Palm Beach County voter registration. His Brookline home was purchased by a trust with an address in Boca Raton.
Henry may be a Florida resident, but he is still a far different owner of the Globe than the New York Times Co. The Times Co. has a board of directors, shareholders, and a publicly traded stock. In a nearly 3,000-word essay on why he bought the Globe, which the paper published last month, Henry said his ownership of the newspaper will mean decisions will be made locally. “The obligation is now to readers and local residents, not to distant shareholders,” he wrote. Technically, however, the obligation is now to him, the man who paid $70 million in cash for the newspaper.
Here’s what we know about Henry. He’s smart, rich, and heavily invested in sports. He is married to Linda Pizzuti, who has a master’s degree in real estate development from MIT and years of experience working for her father’s development company. Henry built his fortune running a Florida investment firm that shut down at the end of 2012. Now his business interests include the Red Sox, the New England Sports Network, the English Premier League team Liverpool, and the NASCAR team Roush Fenway Racing. The Globe is a very minor piece of his business empire. He paid $70 million for the Globe this year; he led a group that paid $700 million for the Red Sox in 2002. His yacht, which has been declining rapidly in value, is still worth roughly a third of what he paid for the newspaper.
Politically, Henry seems in tune with the Globe‘s traditional editorial slant. He is a registered Democrat in Florida who worked for the presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy when he was 18. He donated $885,250 to federal campaigns between 1997 and 2004, but nothing since. Nearly all of his contributions – 96 percent – went to Democratic Party umbrella groups. The rest went to individual Democratic candidates, including John Tierney ($1,000 in 1998), Ed Markey ($2,000 in 2003), and John Kerry ($2,000 to his presidential campaign in 2003). The one exception was a $1,000 donation in 2002 to US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, then a Republican state representative running for Congress in southern Florida. Henry has donated no money to local or state candidates in Florida or Massachusetts.
Florida records indicate Henry typically votes only in the general election in years when there is a race for president. He doesn’t vote in primaries. He didn’t vote at all in 2000, when George W. Bush was running for president against Al Gore and Florida was the pivotal battleground for the presidency.We know very little about Henry’s plans for the Globe. Will he keep an office at the Globe? Will he keep existing management in place? Does he plan to move the Globe and redevelop the land it sits on in Dorchester? What are his plans for the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester? How will the Globe report on Henry’s various businesses? How will it treat his friends in the Boston power structure?
Through a spokesman, Henry never got back to me.