THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Businessman prepares bid to buy Globe

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / April 29, 2011

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A Wellesley businessman is preparing to offer more than $200 million to buy The Boston Globe from its longtime owner, The New York Times Co., according to a person briefed on the plan.

Aaron Kushner, an entrepreneur who has spent months researching the media business and soliciting funds from local executives, will make a formal offer within the next several weeks for the New England Media Group, the Times Co. division that includes the Globe, Boston.com, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Telegram.com., said this person, who requested anonymity because the bid is not yet public.

In a statement, Kushner, 38, said he is encouraged by the amount of support he is receiving. “We are particularly pleased with the commitment of our growing investor group to the continued and expanded excellence of journalism in Boston and Worcester,’’ his statement said. “When we have all of the pieces in place to not just purchase but enrich the institutions, we look forward to making a formal offer.’’

Kushner, who founded an Internet company and more recently ran Marian Heath Greeting Cards Inc. of Wareham, would not disclose how many investors have joined him or what he intends to bid.

“We are not discussing business terms at all,’’ he said through a spokesman.

A spokeswoman for the Times Co. declined to comment. The Times Co. previously tried to sell the New England Media Group and received three offers in 2009. However, the company took the papers off the market as financial conditions began to improve.

During the last several months, Kushner has courted business executives and others from Boston and around New England to either invest in his venture, or provide him with advice and other input. Among those who have been involved is a former Globe editor, Ben Bradlee Jr., as well as Benjamin and Stephen Taylor, members of the family that owned the Globe for generations before selling to the Times Co. for $1.1 billion in 1993. The Taylors have previously said they intend to invest in Kushner’s effort.

Also involved is Chris Harte, a former publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who is advising Kushner on media issues. He said he believes Kushner has developed a business plan that can help the Globe thrive.

“He’s come up with a way of doing things that’s radically different,’’ Harte said. “It’s not going to transform the product, but it will transform the way it does business.’’

Kushner and his investors have been unwilling to divulge details on how he would change the newspaper’s business model, but some have said it generally involves expanding the marketing of the newspaper and developing new products to connect readers to advertisers. The goal would be to help the newspaper generate stronger revenues and allow it to expand its news gathering and content.

Kushner also declined to say whether his eventual bid will include the assumption of the Globe’s pension liabilities.

The Globe, like other newspapers, is grappling with how to grow revenues as readers and advertisers migrate to the Internet. In the first quarter of the year, revenue at the New England Media Group was down 5 percent, to $96.4 million.

Still that performance has improved significantly over the past several years. Importantly, the company cut expenses substantially through staff reductions, labor concessions on wages and benefits, as well as plant consolidation. Also, a significant price increase helped offset declines in advertising revenues.

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