Martha Deller Special to the Business Press
The back-to-back announcements that Boston Globe and Washington Post – two of the nation’s largest and most revered daily newspapers – have been sold may have stunned loyal readers and employees of those and other newspapers across the United States. But those sales will likely have little impact on the decisions of the owners of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Dallas Morning News or big city newspaper owners, an independent media analyst said Aug. 8.
“All of those other newspaper owners already know what their own long-term secular problems are at their newspapers,” said Craig Huber, an independent media analyst at the Connecticut-based Huber Research Partners. Huber said it is unlikely that the sale of the Post and the Globe will have any impact on the McClatchy Company, which bought the Star-Telegram and 31 other newspapers from Knight Ridder in 2006. McClatchy sold some papers but kept the Star-Telegram, Kansas City Star, Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer and some smaller papers. “This may make them think a little, ‘If these guys at other large newspapers sell, maybe I should sell,’” Huber said. “I doubt, though, that the sale of The Washington Post and The Boston Globe will have any impact on McClatchy. They don’t want to sell. They haven’t sold newspapers in over five years.”
Star-Telegram Publisher Gary Wortel did not reply to emails requesting comments on the possible impact of the Globe and Post sales on the Star-Telegram and other large daily newspapers. Robert W. Decherd, chief executive officer of the A.H. Belo Corp., parent company of The Dallas Morning News, said via email: “I don’t think too much should be made of these two transactions.” Decherd recently announced his retirement, effective in September, from A.H. Belo, which he has led since its 2008 spinoff from the Belo Corp. The Washington Post Company announced Aug. 5 it was selling its newspaper business, including the flagship Washington Post, to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million.
The announcement came on the heels of the Aug. 3 announcement that The New York Times Co. will sell the Boston Globe to Red Sox owner John W. Henry for $70 million, a fraction of the $1.1 billion it paid for the paper two decades ago. Neither newspaper was sold to another newspaper chain but to owners with diverse investments and “deep pockets,” which could be crucial to the survival of the papers, Huber said. “If you believe these things will start losing money like I think these large metropolitan papers will over time, it’s important to have owners with deep, deep pockets that are willing to take on annual losses if and when they get to that stage,” he said. Huber said he has no idea how long Bezos and Henry will be willing to absorb losses from their newly acquired newspapers. If those losses climb into the tens of millions, they may cut their losses, he said. “They may not know themselves,” he said. “Wealthy people don’t get wealthy by taking on losses.” Bezos, whose net worth has been estimated at more than $25 billion, is acquiring The Post personally and not through Amazon.com. He invested earlier this year in the financial news site Business Insider and is the founder of the commercial space flight company Blue Origin. He is gaining control of the newspaper from the Graham family, which has led it for decades but said in a memo to Post employees that he will ask publisher Katherine Weymouth and executive editor Martin Baron to continue leading the paper day-to-day. Henry’s Fenway Sports Group owns the Boston Red Sox baseball club, Fenway Park, 80 percent of a regional sports television network and the giant Liverpool Football Club in England.
Henry told The Globe he would disclose details about his plans for the company’s Worchester newspapers soon. “This is a thriving, dynamic region that needs a strong, sustainable Boston Globe playing an integral role in the community’s long-term future,” Henry was quoted in The Globe. In an article this week in CNN Money, Huber said the Globe and Post sales are not comparable to that of the Tribune Company, which has tried unsuccessfully for months to sell the Los Angeles Times after previous attempts to sell the entire newspaper group failed. With the spin-off process under way, the future ownership of Tribune’s newspaper division is still an open question, he told CNN. “Whether the newspapers end up being their own public company or they eventually get sold after they become a spun-off entity or before being spun off, I don’t think Tribune cares as long as they can get them off their books,” Huber said. While McClatchy has not attempted to sell its entire news operation, it has tried unsuccessfully to sell the Miami Herald, its largest newspaper.
“There’s no steadfast rule,” Huber said. “It’s just market by market. It’s just pure coincidence that the Washington Post and Boston Globe sales happened the same week. That’s the only reason we’re talking about this.” (This article contains material from CNN.)