Got bad news to report? There’s no better time all year to disclose it than on Christmas Eve, when few are paying attention.
Used this year by Obama to dump his internal Blago report and the New York Times Company to disclose that its stake in the Red Sox is up for grabs, it’s the oldest trick in the book.
Just a year ago, disposing of this key asset would have been unthinkable, as it ranks just behind the paper’s fancy Manhattan headquarters in value. It’s the equivalent of taking one’s family jewels to the nearest pawn shop.
As the holiday week continued, however, that nugget was revealed to be merely the tip of the iceberg. A Boxing Day story in London’s Financial Times contained the real bombshell: the Boston Globe may now be worth as little as $27m. And a follow-up report in yesterday’s Boston Herald cites a more recent Barclays estimate of $20m.
Remember: the Morrissey monstrosity was sold to the Grey Lady for $1.1 BILLION in 1993. In 2008, it is now worth what a paper in Fall River, Newport or Bangor might have fetched five or six years ago.
Here’s the kicker: according to the FT, the Globe is now worth so little that it might simply be given away as part of a sweetened (soured?) Red Sox sale. One could assume the Worcester paper would be thrown into this mix as well.
From there, the FT’s coverage moves into the realm of the bizarre, however, as it speculates that the Globe might be folded into the remnants of the Ottaway Newspaper chain, now owned by News Corp, but once part of Dow Jones & Company. Under this scenario, the Herald would shut down:
Another scenario under consideration by potential bidders includes merging the Boston Globe with News Corp’s Ottaway newspaper chain and consolidating and shutting down the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe’s rival.
Patrick Purcell, owner and publisher of the Boston Herald and a former News Corp executive, was recently tapped by News Corp to run the Ottaway chain.
Mr Purcell is understood to have visited the Globe’s printing plant in Massachusetts shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday in November, the person said.
News Corp pulled the Ottaway chain – comprised of eight daily newspapers and 15 weeklies – off the market after failing to sell the papers before a June 30 deadline. One News Corp source said it was not currently involved in discussions.
But the FT badly underestimates Purcell’s love for the Herald and its key role as perhaps the lone remaining opposition voice fighting corrupt, one-party rule on Beacon Hill and at Boston City Hall.
Though The Globies will occasionally go after one or two of our local political crooks, with Sal DiMasi as a recent example, there’s usually a political agenda in the mix: supporting other aspiring Democrats who seek these coveted positions.
Beyond Purcell’s passion for the Herald, why merge the Globe with Ottaway, when he can combine his own paper with that chain (since he is now in charge of both)?
Because the Herald is a scrappy operation with outsourced printing, a bare-bones staff and plans to dispose of its headquarters building, it easily has the potential to become Boston’s surviving newspaper.
The bigger picture, however, couldn’t be more significant: if the Boston Globe is worth only $20m, then how does one value any other print or broadcast media outlet in New England? What’s it like to own WRKO, WBZ or WTKK right about now? Or any of the local television stations?
Rather like how foreclosed properties on one’s street depress home values for an entire neighborhood, a near-worthless Globe means a full collapse of the Boston media’s house of cards. How much longer our other regional players can survive is anyone’s guess, but I’m willing to bet more than one of these outfits doesn’t see the end of 2009.
Care to take bets on who that will be?
Boston Herald delivery vehicle image: Boston Globe, Purcell image: Boston Herald