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New York Times Co. Will Try to Sell Off Boston Globe

Amid ad struggles, publisher looks to shed assets

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The New York Times announced it planned to unload The Boston Globe and its related properties, which would further strip the company of assets outside of the paper of record. As Bloomberg News reported earlier, and the Times confirmed, the company is working with Evercore Partners, an independent investment firm, to assist with the process. 

The properties in the New England Media Group that are for sale include the Globe along with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and their respective Web sites and GlobeDirect, the Globe's direct mail marketing company.

“Our plan to sell the New England Media Group demonstrates our commitment to concentrate our strategic focus and investment on The New York Times brand and its journalism,” Mark Thompson, president and CEO of The New York Times Co., said in a statement. He added: “We are very proud of our association with the Globe and the Telegram & Gazette, but given the differences between these businesses and The New York Times, we believe that a sale is in the best long-term interests of these properties and the employees who work for them as well as in the best interests of our shareholders.”

The Times Co. has been shedding assets including regional newspapers and About.com, which it sold last August to Barry Diller's IAC/InteractiveCorp for $300 million. The company lost roughly $110 million in the About deal (it acquired the About Group in 2005 for $410 million). 

With the advertising business still dire for the Times Co., it's not unreasonable to suggest the paper will take a loss on the Globe sale as it has with properties like About.com. This past quarter, the company reported advertising revenue declined 8.3 percent to $265 million, with print ads down 10.2 percent and digital down 1.7 percent. The company purchased the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion. 

Looking toward possible buyers and asking prices, The Times' media columnist David Carr surveyed media types in 2009—the last time the paper put the Globe up for sale—who put the potential price tag anywhere between "a buck" and $300 million. The Times Media Decoder blog is reporting that the paper turned down an offer in 2009 for $35 million by a local investment group.

As far as buyers, Twitter is full of jokes that former presidential candidate Mitt Romney should buy the paper. Business Insider editor in chief and notorious Internet troublemaker Henry Blodget has also playfully tweeted interest in the property, one of his usual gags when media companies go up for sale.

Though the New England Media group includes some storied media franchises, it's unclear whether many will come forward to shoulder the risk. This month during the Times Co.'s quarterly earnings call, the firm noted the Globe had close to 28,000 digital subscribers. During the call Times Co. CFO James Follo said the paper has seen "kind of a steady growth" noting, "we don't see that trajectory changing dramatically." The Globe has also recently tinkered with its ambitious paywall, reducing the number of free articles on the site and clamping down on socially shared articles.

 

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