By Christopher B. Daly
No surprise: the deal announced last summer has finally closed. The NYT Co. has sold the Boston Globe (and a bundle of other New England news properties) to the wealthy investor John Henry. The price was $70 million, or 6.3% of the $1.1 billion that the New York Times paid for the Globe 20 years ago.
Henry, who made a fortune in commodity trading, already owns several important sports ventures —
notably the hometown MLB franchise, the Boston Red Sox. (How the Globe sports department will cover the Sox remains a touchy, unresolved issue that will not go away.)
Henry also owns the Liverpool Football Club, which is ranked third in the English Premier League of the sport we commonly call soccer. Here’s a page of links to Henry-related stories from the British newspaper The Guardian. Here’s the comparable page from the Liverpool Echo, consisting mainly of sports stories that say little about Henry.
The reason that I am searching British media for information about Henry is that he is rarely written about here. Although he has been one of the principal owners of the Boston Red Sox for years now, he is still pretty much of an enigma. He shows up in photos at the occasional charity or celebrity event, and his courtship and marriage of Linda Pizzutti (who hails from my hometown — Medford, Mass.) in 2009 produced a portfolio of rather icky photos.
Boston magazine has attempted to cover Henry, and I hope they continue to do so.
The question that awaits an answer is: how will the Globe cover its new owner? This is an inherently awkward (and possibly impossible) assignment for any news organization, since readers will always have to wonder whether any punches were pulled. To report fully and write honestly about the person who signs your paycheck is hard enough; to convince people that you are really telling the whole story means somehow overcoming the apparent conflict of interest involved. It will be a test of the Globe’s independence and its credibility as a journalistic enterprise if it even attempts to cover the new owner.
As for Henry, much remains to be seen. Here are some questions I have:
Will he be an engaged owner?
Will he keep the valuable Brian McGrory as top editor?
Will he endorse political candidates?
Will he stand by the paper’s metered pay system for online access?
Will he order up expanded coverage of English soccer?
Will he tolerate critical coverage of the Red Sox?
Will he sell the land and buildings at Morrissey Boulevard?
Will he sell the printing presses and trucks and take the Globe into a post-print future?