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Taylors back local bid to buy Globe

Former executives offer funds, advice

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / January 21, 2011

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A Wellesley businessman who wants to buy The Boston Globe has gained financial backing from two members of the Taylor family, which owned and published the newspaper for generations.

Former Globe executives Benjamin and Stephen Taylor said they will provide money and advice to Aaron Kushner, a 37-year-old entrepreneur who said he will make an offer for the Globe within months.

The Taylors, who are cousins, declined to say how much money they have committed, or to precisely define their roles in Kushner’s venture, known as the 2100 Trust . But their involvement adds media experience to his team, as well as familiarity with the Globe.

Kushner, who founded an Internet company and more recently ran Marian Heath Greeting Cards Inc. of Wareham, has spent months trying to raise money and sign on business partners to buy the New England Media Group, which includes the Globe, Boston.com, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Telegram.com.

The group is owned by The New York Times Co., which bought the Globe from a company controlled by the Taylor family in 1993 for $1.1 billion. The Times Co.’s nearly 17 percent stake in the Boston Red Sox and affiliated sports properties would not be part of Kushner’s offer.

The Taylors made an unsuccessful bid to buy the Globe in 2009, when the paper and many other news organizations around the country were in severe financial straits. Since then, the Globe has taken many steps to improve its financial performance, which has likely increased the price a buyer would have to offer to get the Times Co.’s attention.

The Taylors said they were impressed by Kushner’s energy and ideas about running a media business and supported his plan to expand the Globe’s editorial staff and content, though they declined to provide specifics.

“He has some good ideas about how to grow the business,’’ said Benjamin Taylor, who was publisher of the Globe from 1997 to 1999. “I’ve gotten to know him, and I feel he has a good sense of the vital role a newspaper like the Globe plays in the community.’’

It remains unclear whether the Times Co. would entertain a sale. The company said yesterday that it has not been contacted by Kushner or his team and does not comment on rumors of acquisitions or divestitures.

Kushner said he expects to make an offer in the coming months. But he declined to reveal how much money he has raised so far, other than to say he has financial commitments from more than a dozen investors.

During the past year, Kushner has met with a who’s who in the region’s business community to try to raise money and solicit feedback about buying and running the Globe. The Taylors, he said, would be “significant shareholders and an important part of the team.’’

Benjamin Taylor, 64, was the last member of his family to serve as publisher after the Times Co. bought the newspaper. Stephen Taylor, 59, worked at the Globe until 2001 as an executive vice president. Recently he has been teaching at Yale University’s School of Management.

They came together to try to buy the paper back when the Times Co. put it up for sale in 2009, as the Globe was struggling due to the slow economy and a shift in advertising from print to electronic media. One of two finalists in the bidding, the Taylors offered the Times Co. about $35 million plus pension liabilities. But then the Times Co. took it off the market as the Boston company’s financial condition improved due to cost cuts and an increase in subscription prices.

Recently, the Times Co. has made significant investments in the Globe, including hiring more sales staff, expanding print and online offerings, and buying a new computer system to manage editorial content. Later this year, the Globe will roll out a new online subscription site, BostonGlobe.com, to supplement free content that will continue to be offered on Boston.com.

Last fall, an analyst at financial services firm UBS estimated a successful offer for the Globe would have to be more than $200 million.

Stephen Taylor said Kushner approached him through an intermediary two months ago and presented a detailed business plan for operating the Globe. Taylor said he was impressed by Kushner’s thoroughness and surprised to learn Kushner, who has never managed a newspaper, shared many of his thoughts about how to improve it.

“He’s got a very exciting plan that is productive and growth-oriented and could be very good for the Globe and the city,’’ Stephen Taylor said. “In the end, I think the Times would listen to a proposal that makes strategic sense, and we hope to present them with such a proposal.’’

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.