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2 bidders invited in for tours of Globe

By Beth Healy
Globe Staff / August 21, 2009

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Two of the three groups bidding on The Boston Globe made it to the next round and have been invited to a series of onsite meetings at the newspaper in early September, according to people briefed on the potential sale of the paper.

But one high-profile group that submitted the lowest bid has yet to receive an invitation: the team led by Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca and former advertising executive Jack Connors.

Stephen Taylor, a member of the family that sold the Globe to The New York Times Co. in 1993 for $1.1 billion, leads one group that is planning to visit the Globe around Labor Day, according to people briefed on the matter.

The other group is Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills, Calif., investment firm that recently purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Both the Taylor group and Platinum submitted bids last month of about $35 million, plus the assumption of $59 million of pension liabilities for the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, people briefed on the bids said. The Times Co. owns both papers and required suitors to submit bids for both properties.

Pagliuca and Connors offered no cash to the Times Co., proposing instead a nonprofit model, under which their group would put money into the Globe and create a foundation to support it, according to people briefed on the bids. These people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the bids.

A spokeswoman for the Times Co. declined to comment on whether the Pagliuca-Connors bid is still under consideration. None of the groups would comment on the next stage of the bidding.

The September meetings are expected to include sessions with executives at the Globe and the T&G, tours of both newspaper offices, a Millbury printing plant, and a shuttered Billerica printing plant.

The Times Co. has hired Goldman Sachs & Co. to explore the possible sale of the Globe and boston.com, the Worcester newspaper and its website, and the related plants.

In a recent Globe interview, the Times Co.’s publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., said “price is not the only consideration’’ in the company’s decision whether to sell the Globe, and to whom. He also said the Times Co. does not have to sell the Globe, after reaping $20 million in wage and benefit concessions from the Globe’s unions this year, and as the finances of New England’s largest daily improve.

Still, the Times Co. is under pressure to raise cash to pay down debt and is facing the same struggles as the rest of the newspaper industry, as readers and advertisers shift to the Internet. The Globe produced large profits for the Times Co. for many years but recently was on track to lose $85 million in 2009, the company had said. The Globe’s finances have recently stabilized with the bottoming of the recession, deep cost-cutting, reorganization, and higher subscription and newsstand prices.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.