Telegram For Sale
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Times Co. plans to sell its entire New England Media Group, which includes the Telegram and Telegram.com as well as The Boston Globe, BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com.
“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 Company, said in a statement.
“The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette are outstanding newspapers and they and their related digital properties are well-managed leaders in their markets with real opportunities for future development. 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 Waltham-based investment banking group Evercore Partners has been retained to advise the Times Co. and manage the sales process.
The Times Co. acquired the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion and bought the Telegram in 2000 for $296 million.
Media Experts React
One media professional close to the Telegram said they were surprised by the news, but that the announcement itself was not surprising in light of the recent trajectory of the Times Co.
"Another ripple or tidal wave of reality moving into the local news scene. I'll be fascinated to see how it all plays out," said James Dempsey, professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and adjunct professor at Clark, with a 20-year career in print journalism, including time as a columnist for the Telegram. "This is the time for local potential owners to step forward--if they really give a damn."
While the company's press release stated that "There can be no assurance that any transaction will take place," some media observers were more optimistic that a buyer would come forth.
"My gut tells me that, this time, the Globe really will be sold," said Dan Kennedy, professor at Northeastern University's School of Journalism and media blogger at Media Nation.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the New York Times Co. is already talking with a few potential buyers, and the newspaper market -- though far from great -- is better than it was in 2009, when the company tried and failed to sell the Globe."
Whether a buyer will emerge still remains unclear, and until one does, the future of both papers will remain unclear as well.
Last July, the Globe offered voluntary buyout options to 23 employees in advertising and 20 in their newsroom. At that time, the Telegram said it laid off one employee and offered buyout options to five to 10 employees.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reported that at the Boston Globe, weekday print circulation was 180,919 in the ABC's reporting period ending September 30, 2012, compared to 190,282 in 2011. Total weekday circulation, including digital and free copies, was 230,051, an increase from the 205,939 recorded in the same period in 2011.
The Times Co. faced issues with brownfield site cleanup at the former home of the Worcester Telegram at 18-20 Franklin Street, and the building was sold by the news company after cleanup costs to remove asbestos, lead, and other contaminants were estimated at $1.1 million. The property was sold for $300,000 to New Garden Park Inc., a non-profit subsidiary of the Worcester Business Development Corporation responsible for cleaning up brownfields. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray recently remarked that the paper or the Times Co. may have to pony up more money for the cleanup, as the building prepares to welcome the downtown expansion of Quinsigamond Community College.
Betting on Buyers?
Some have speculated that the Times Co. is already in talks with a potential buyer, but the company remained mum on that point.
"Additional details will be provided when and if the Company enters into a transaction. As a matter of policy, the Company will not comment upon any proposals, discussions or rumors regarding the proposed sale," the press release stated.
Many questions remain about the future of both the Telegram and the Globe, and Alan D. Mutter, a new media consultant and adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, said the answers would not become clear until the new ownership is apparent.
"It all depends on the goals of the buyer, assuming there is one."
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