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Former Globe publisher joins cousin’s bid to buy newspaper

By Beth Healy
Globe Staff / September 19, 2009

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Stephen Taylor has gained a significant backer in his bid to buy The Boston Globe, according to people involved in the talks - his cousin Benjamin Taylor, the last member of the family to serve as publisher after The New York Times Co. bought the newspaper in 1993.

The development comes as the deadline approaches for final bids on the Globe, and as Stephen Taylor continues to assemble his investor team. And the backing follows a week in which the competition to buy the newspaper narrowed to two parties.

The Taylor team is up against a deep-pocketed Beverly Hills, Calif., investment firm, Platinum Equity, which has acquired 100 companies since 1995. Both groups bid about $35 million for the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, plus the assumption of $59 million in pension liabilities for the two papers. The Times Co. also owns the T&G and may sell it along with the Globe.

A third group that had expressed interest in buying the papers dropped out last week. That group was led by Boston Celtics co-owner and private equity executive Stephen Pagliuca and former advertising mogul Jack Connors. Pagliuca announced that he is instead running for the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat.

Both Platinum and Stephen Taylor in recent days have met with Globe management as part of their due diligence in the bidding. Platinum earlier this year acquired the San Diego Union-Tribune and has bid on other publications around the country. Final bids for the Globe may be due as soon as the end of the month, according to people involved in the process. Times Co. executives have said the paper’s financial performance has improved and the company doesn’t have to sell it.

Since summer, when preliminary bids were submitted to the Times Co., questions have swirled around Stephen Taylor’s ability to raise funds to get back into the struggling news business. While the Times Co. paid $1.1 billion for the Globe in 1993, large portions of the Taylor family’s proceeds from the sale are in trusts that are restricted. Benjamin Taylor can bring more cash to the table because he was a significant shareholder in the company. The elder cousin also is expected to help the group raise money from other investors.

For Benjamin Taylor, the decision to join the effort comes after a jarring departure from New England’s largest daily. He ran the Globe from 1997 to 1999, taking the reins from another second cousin, William Taylor, who had been in charge at the time of the sale to the Times Co. Despite a soaring economy at that time, the Globe and other newspapers were beginning to feel the effects of the Internet, with advertising and readers moving online. Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. fired Benjamin Taylor and installed longtime Times Co. executive Richard Gilman, who served as publisher until 2006.

Stephen Taylor worked at the Globe until 2001 as an executive vice president of the Globe and in his role overseeing the paper’s website, Boston.com. Recently, he has been teaching at Yale University’s School of Management.

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