Globe owner talks
Talks up TV venture, hints at selling Dorchester real estate
John Henry told a business group on Wednesday that his job as owner of the Boston Globe is similar in some ways to his job as the principal owner of the Red Sox: His primary responsibility is to increase revenues so both the team and paper can effectively compete.
In his first lengthy remarks about the Globe since acquiring the newspaper from the New York Times Co. in October, Henry told members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that he wants to boost advertising and sponsorship, launch a Boston Globe TV network, and possibly sell the paper’s real estate in Dorchester. He said he also is searching for a chief operating officer for the newspaper.
Henry adopted a hands-off attitude about the news content of the paper itself, but expressed some broad views about coverage. He said he wanted the paper to be “aggressively relevant” while acknowledging what has been a reality for some time: the Globe is no longer the city’s or the region’s paper of record, attempting to cover everything that happens on a daily basis. “We have to concentrate on things we are really good at,” Henry said a couple times in his speech.
He said the newspaper industry was turned upside down by the Internet, much as the music industry was. By contrast, he said, sports teams have prospered, largely because of television. He didn’t elaborate, but suggested the Globe could leverage its news coverage across television and other platforms to grow revenues. It’s an idea that was often espoused by the Globe’s former editor, Marty Baron, who is now the editor of the Washington Post. Baron felt the paper could deliver its content in print, on the Internet, on radio, and through video. Henry quipped that “we’ll be broadcasting from drones.”
The Red Sox already own a majority stake in the New England Sports Network, a cable channel that carries Red Sox and Boston Bruins games as well as other sports coverage. Henry indicated NESN and the Globe would continue to collaborate, as they have for years, but he said he wanted to develop a separate, stand-alone network for the Globe.
Surrounded by reporters after his speech, Henry begged off questions about new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other political matters. He answered questions about his plans for the Globe, but generally offered few details.
For example, he said he wouldn’t attempt to redevelop the Globe property on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester himself but would be open to selling the property to someone else and relocating the news operation to another location. “If we decide to move off, we’ll just look to sell it,” he said.
To sell the property, Henry would have to relocate the presses now based in Dorchester, since the Globe publishes its own papers as well as those of the Boston Herald, regional editions of the New York Times, the Patriot Ledger, the Telegram & Gazette, and the Brockton Enterprise. Henry also took ownership of the Telegram & Gazette when he bought the Globe for $70 million. He plans to sell the T&G but has said he intends to hold on to a printing plant belonging to the newspaper in Millbury, which, with significant retrofits, could possibly be used as the Globe’s new printing location.
Henry made a personal appeal to the executives in the audience to support the Globe with advertising and suggestions. “We need your support of the Globe,” he said. He then quickly added, with a nod to Boston Herald publisher Patrick Purcell, who was in the audience, “the Herald needs your support.”
On the day he bought the Globe, Henry said the lone advertisers in the Globe sports section were the airline JetBlue and NESN. He said he wants to attract more advertisers and sponsors to the newspaper with coverage and sections that draw the type of readers advertisers want. As an example, he mentioned the Globe’s new football section on Mondays called Score.
The Globe’s owner also divulged that he doesn’t have an office at the newspaper. “I share an office. I don’t really need an office,” he said. He declined to say whose office he shares, but others at the paper say he tends to store his things in Perlmutter’s office. Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti – who runs the Globe charitable foundation and does have an office in the Globe’s executive suite – have reserved parking spaces in front of the building.