In 1993, The New York Times Company bought The Boston Globe from Boston's Taylor family for $1.1 billion—the highest price ever paid for a U.S. newspaper. Now, 38-year-old entrepreneur and Boston transplant Aaron Kushner is reportedly preparing to bid around just $200 million for the paper and its parent company, the New England Media Group.
Not that it matters to the Times at this point, but Kushner looks like an odd savior for the Globe. A self-described "mission-driven entrepreneur," his first mission was MyMove.com, a website that specialized in move-related products and services. It was sold in 1999. His second mission was building a greeting card business, Marian Heath, which, he claims, saw revenues triple from 2002, when he bought the company and became CEO, to 2009, when he left.
But if Kushner does succeed in buying the Globe, nothing on his resume seems like preparation for what his next mission would be: Bring the Globe, and the New England Media Group’s other holdings—including Boston.com, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Telegram.com—back to what former editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (son of the legendary Washington Post editor) has called the “glory days.”
Kushner, a Georgia boy and Stanford alum, has lived in Boston for all of seven years—currently in a $1.7 million house with his wife and kids in Wellesley, Mass., according to Boston magazine. His backers reportedly include former Globe executives Benjamin and Stephen Taylor, who are heirs of the family that sold the Globe to the Times, former Star Tribune publisher Chris Harte, and Brendan Burns, the former CEO of online classifieds company AdOne.
“We are particularly pleased with the commitment of our growing investor group to the continued and expanded excellence of journalism in Boston and Worcester,’’ Kushner said in a statement to the Globe. “When we have all of the pieces in place to not just purchase but enrich the institutions, we look forward to making a formal offer.’’
Kushner has consistently refused to discuss his master plan for saving the papers and its sister sites. He has only said it would focus on investing rather than cost cutting. In January, Brendan Burns told Boston magazine that his own background in online classifieds “unquestionably” had a place in Kushner’s business plan. According to the Globe, revenue at the New England Media Group dropped 5 percent, to $96.4 million, in the first quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, the Globe, which lost about $85 million in 2009, has cut around 40 percent of its staff.
What he has made clear, though, is that he and his backers would be likely to have an unorthodox relationship with the editorial side of the papers. Asked by Boston magazine if he would sign an agreement to stay clear of editorial, he said, “I’m not sure why. I think that’s unhealthy,” and added that both he and his investors would be very much engaged in it.
Politically, Kushner’s leanings are unclear. He donated $4,600 to Barack Obama in 2007, but also donated to incumbent senators from both parties that year. In 2006, he gave $2,000 to Joe Lieberman after the Connecticut senator had lost a Democratic primary and decided to run as an independent.