Boston Globe Sale Chatter Draws Interest — Just Not From NYTCO

Some rich guys in Boston want to buy the Boston Globe. That’s because some rich guys want to buy the Los Angeles Times because other rich guys bought The Philadelphia Inquirer. Civic appeal aside, the interest of Jack Welch and his partners in the Globe is a bit baffling. After all, the paper has been a drag on the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) for years. What makes the former General Electric (NYSE: GE) CEO and his team think they can do any better? After all, the new owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer are now pushing for job cuts and other cost reductions. Still, people are undaunted. The WSJ reported today that several “people with deep pockets in both Boston and New York” asked to join the bidding group after a story on their plans appeared in yesterday’s Globe.
The Times isn’t interested in selling the paper at a “fire sale” to the group and remains confident that it can improve the Globe’s performance, a person “familiar with the Times’s thinking” told the paper. (I can imagine the negotiations between reporter and source to come up with that tortured phrase.)
Perhaps Welch has figured out something about newspapers that’s eluded everyone else. Maybe he’s hoping that the company can more effectively leverage growth engine Boston.com. Who knows? If management expert Welch comes up with a good idea, he should share it with the billionaires in California who want to buy the Times, which has been a drag for years on Tribune. The problems papers have aren’t going to be any easier for local owners to solve than big corporations. Brian Tierney of the Philadelphia Inquirer put it very well in an interview with the Journal: “I can’t put a bubble around this building and make it like it was 1976, because it’s not.”
Update: Here’s the official line from Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis: “It is our policy not to comment on potential acquisitions or divestitures. We constantly review our portfolio of properties to assess their continuing relevance to our strategy. We view the Globe as an important asset, and we have taken many steps that we believe will improve its performance.” That includes the recent appointment of Steve Ainsley as Globe publisher and head of the New England Media Group.