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Local buyers target T&G

Polar Beverages chief, ex-editor join forces

By Shaun Sutner
Worcester Telegram & Gazette / October 10, 2009

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WORCESTER - A group of local businessmen led by Ralph D. Crowley Jr., chief executive of Polar Beverages Co., and Harry T. Whitin, the former editor of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, is attempting to buy the T&G from The New York Times Co., according to sources close to the sale.

The Crowley-Whitin group has been negotiating with Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment firm hired by the Times Co. to conduct a potential sale, according to these sources who could not speak publicly about the discussions. Those negotiations have occurred as Goldman Sachs has been dealing with two suitors seeking to buy The Boston Globe, the Times Co.’s other newspaper property in New England.

T&G publisher Bruce Gaultney and Abbe Serphos, spokeswoman for the Times Co., declined to comment.

Times Co. officials have said they would entertain offers for the two newspapers as a package, but wouldn’t rule out selling them separately. They also have maintained they may not sell either paper.

Final bids for the Globe and the T&G were due yesterday. The team led by Stephen Taylor, a former Globe executive and a member of the family that sold the Globe to the Times Co., submitted a final bid, according to a person involved in the matter. The other bidder, Platinum Equity, a California buyout firm that owns the San Diego Union-Tribune, would not comment.

The Times Co. bought the T&G for $296 million in 2000. It paid $1.1 billion for the Globe in 1993.

It was unknown what the final bids were. In a preliminary round, Taylor’s group and Platinum Equity each offered about $35 million for the Globe and the T&G, plus the assumption of $59 million in pension liabilities.

Crowley, 58, of Worcester, is the oldest of five siblings whose father, Ralph D. Crowley Sr., was an owner of Polar Beverages, a fourth-generation, family- owned company that is the largest independent bottler in the country. The elder Crowley, who died in 1995, founded the modern-day Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton after acquiring the lease to the mountain from the state in 1969. Today, Ralph Crowley Jr. and his younger brother, Christopher J. Crowley, executive vice president of Polar, run the Worcester-based beverage company, while three other siblings, Jeff and David Crowley and Carolyn Crowley Stimpson, operate the ski area and the Wachusett Village Inn, a Westminster hotel and conference center.

Whitin, 63, of Westborough, retired this spring, after 44 years with the paper. In addition to serving as the paper’s editor for the past 16 years, he spent seven years on the paper’s business side, overseeing human resources, circulation, and marketing, and as assistant to the publisher. Whitin, who grew up in Northbridge and Ware, also worked for the paper as a reporter, editorial writer, regional editor, executive news editor, and managing editor.

Beth Healy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.