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.

Henry waxed poetic about newspapers, saying “the morning paper is one of the best experiences of daily life.” He said he had difficulty watching the last few years as the Globe reduced its staff and narrowed its focus.

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.

He also mentioned an upcoming promotion that will offer vouchers to Globe subscribers, who can donate the vouchers to charitable organizations that can use them to pay for advertising in the Globe. The concept was pioneered by the Orange County Register in 2012 when the newspaper offered $12.4 million in gift checks to 124,000 subscribers. The subscribers could donate the gift checks to nonprofits that could use them to buy newspaper ads soliciting donations, attracting volunteers, or promoting events.

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.

Henry is beginning to restructure the top management of the Globe. Late on Wednesday Globe publisher Christopher Mayer announced he was stepping down after four years in that post and 30 years at the newspaper. The announcement came hours after Henry said at the business breakfast that he was looking to hire a chief operating officer. Previously, Henry hired Andrew Perlmutter, who formerly ran the online operations of Newsweek, and brought in Mike Sheehan, the chairman of the Hill Holliday advertising agency, as a consultant on advertising issues.

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.