Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry entered into an agreement early Saturday to buy The Boston Globe, a deal that will put the 141-year-old newspaper, its websites, and affiliated companies into the hands of a personally shy businessman with a history of bold bets.
The impending purchase for $70 million in cash marks Henry’s first foray into the financially unsettled world of the news media.
“The Boston Globe’s award-winning journalism as well as its rich history and tradition of excellence have established it as one of the most well respected media companies in the country,” Henry said in a statement. He cited the “essential role that its journalists and employees play in Boston, throughout New England, and beyond.”
Henry, 63, made his fortune in investment funds and has built a sports empire that includes the Red Sox and New England Sports Network, as well as the Liverpool Soccer Club and Roush Fenway Racing, a NASCAR team.
“We are excited about the prospect of working with John Henry and committed to giving Boston and New England high-quality news, information, and entertainment for years to come,” said Christopher M. Mayer, Globe publisher and president of New England Media Group.
A Quincy, Ill., native and a son of soybean farmers, Henry turned his knowledge of agricultural crops into a complex commodities-investment business, managing $2.5 billion at its height. Since Henry bought the Red Sox with partners Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino in 2002, the team has won two World Series championships following an 86-year drought.
Henry, who lives in Brookline, said he would disclose more details about his plans for the company in coming days.
“This is a thriving, dynamic region that needs a strong, sustainable Boston Globe playing an integral role in the community’s long-term future,” he said.
In buying the Globe and its websites, BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com, Henry bested a field of more than a half dozen bidders, including members of the Taylor family who sold the Globe to the New York Times Co. in 1993. Other bidders included local business people and West Coast investors.
As part of the agreement with the Times Co., Henry also will acquire the Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper and its website, as well as the Globe’s direct mail business and a 49 percent interest in the Metro Boston commuter newspaper.
“We’re delighted to have found a buyer in John Henry, who has strong local roots and a deep appreciation of the importance of these publications to the Greater Boston community,” Times Co. chief executive Mark Thompson said in a statement.
Globe publisher Christopher Mayer, in a note to the staff, thanked the Times Co. for its stewardship and said he looked forward to working with Henry.
“I have no doubt that we will turn our full attention to moving our business forward and fulfilling our enduring mission: to be a voice for New England through our award-winning journalism across all mediums and platforms,’’ Mayer said.
The sale is expected to close in 30 to 60 days.
Bill Grueskin, dean for academic affairs at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, said the Globe is likely to benefit from a local owner. “Having somebody with roots in the community and an intrinsic interest in local coverage and local government is better than having some from out of town,’’ he said.
Noting Henry’s lack of newspaper experience, Grueskin said, “What the Globe needs now is not so much a journalism guy as someone with strong business credentials and the integrity to keep the business separate from the journalism,” he said.
In a statement, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino offered his congratulations to Henry and the Globe, calling them “two of Boston’s best leaders with a rich history of success in building Boston’s brand.”
“I have no doubt this will be a winning combination,” Menino said.
The deal brings under one owner two Boston institutions that have been connected before. The Times Co. owned a minority 17.5 percent stake in the Red Sox from 2002 to 2012, reaping a $150 million profit on the investment.
During that period, the Globe continued its normal coverage of the team and routinely disclosed in news stories that the Times Co. was a partial owner of the Red Sox.
The Globe-Red Sox history also goes back further — all the way to the early 1900s, when members of the Taylor family owned the Red Sox and built Fenway Park.
Even so, the deal is sure to spark debate in journalism circles and among Globe readers about whether the Globe’s coverage of the Red Sox, which regularly includes critical commentary, will be affected.Continued...