Miller selling NH home to pay Banner debt

“I always pay my debts”

Melvin Miller, the publisher of the Bay State Banner, which caters to Boston’s African-American community, is selling his stunning New Hampshire vacation home to satisfy a nearly $278,000 debt the newspaper owes an affiliate of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

“I had expected in my old age to retire up there, but things change,” said Miller. “This loan is going to be paid in full. I always pay my debts.”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino pushed the Boston Local Development Corp. to provide the original $200,000 loan in 2009 to help the newspaper reopen its doors after it briefly shut down because of sharp falloff in advertising revenue. Miller put his New Hampshire home up as collateral on the two-year loan, which carried a 9 percent interest rate. He made only one payment on the loan over the last four years, prompting the agency to send him a demand letter.

Susan Elsbree, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said in an email that the demand letter was sent to Miller a year ago “when it became clear that the Banner’s income stream wouldn’t allow for a reasonable repayment schedule.” She noted the proposed $1.4 million sale price of Miller’s New Hampshire home will easily cover the roughly $700,000 owed on mortgages and the BRA affiliate’s claim on the property. The BRA affiliate’s original loan was for $200,000; with interest, the total comes to nearly $278,000.

Miller’s 5,020-square-foot log home sits on 195 acres in Plainfield. According to the Sotheby’s listing, the home has five bedrooms, three baths, a steam room, and a fitness center. The listing describes the home as a “magnificent private secluded estate.”

Miller says the sale of his home does not mean the Banner is in danger of shutting down again. “If we can recover from the past liabilities we built up from the crash, I think the Banner will survive for another generation,” he said. He noted the newspaper has been a voice of reason during the race for mayor and website traffic has increased dramatically.

At the time the loan was made in 2009, there was some speculation that Menino was trying to silence a frequent media critic as the mayor mounted a campaign for what became his fifth and final term. As he has in the past, Miller said any suggestion that he pulled editorial punches to land the loan is ridiculous. He said he merely took advantage of a city loan program that’s open to any business.

“People acted as if I were given a gift,” Miller said. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

Miller is a director of MassINC, the think tank that publishes CommonWealth.

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.

Elsbree said the mayor was not consulted on the decision to call the Banner’s loan.

The Boston Local Development Corp. generally makes loans to struggling small businesses. The money it lends comes from federal and other grants. As the money is repaid, the board lends it out again.