The prospect of Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry buying The Boston Globe has sparked a mix of cautious optimism and concern from civic leaders to fans of both the team and the paper, institutions that have defined Boston for more than a century.
Governor Deval Patrick said Henry’s leadership of the Red Sox reflects well on his impending ownership of the paper, a deal agreed to early this morning for $70 million in cash with the current owner of the paper, The New York Times Co.
“The Boston Globe is an American institution and a vital source of information here in Massachusetts and across New England,” Patrick said in a statement. “John Henry has already proven his dedication to the Commonwealth with his winning stewardship of the Boston Red Sox, and I have every confidence that he will bring that same level of excellence to this new endeavor.”
Others were less sanguine about the Globe being owned by a major local institution that it spends a lot of ink and pixels covering every year.
At Fenway Park Friday night, as rumors circulated about Henry’s purchase of the Globe, former Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn said he heard doubts and questions, from whether the 141-year-old newspaper would continue to challenge the Red Sox about steep tickets prices to whether the team’s leadership was doing enough to remain competitive. Others worried about Henry acquiring too much power.
“I want the Globe to be able to be critical of great institutions in this city—like the Red Sox—when they’re wrong,” he said. “I want a paper that will protect the sports consumers’ interest, which calls it like it sees it—like an umpire.”
From the State House to city streets, newspapers readers and Red Sox fans, along with businesspeople and those who never follow sports had an opinion.
Craig Scaperotta, 68 of Cambridge, was sitting outside 1369 Coffee House this morning reading the Globe with his morning coffee.
He has read the paper every morning for 37 years, he said, and is happy a local owner has taken the reins of the paper.
“I bet [columnist Dan] Shaughnessy is pretty worried, but better him than some of the other people talking about buying papers,” he said. “I wouldn’t want the Koch Brothers.”
He isn’t concerned about a potential conflict of interest, he said. The consolidation of media ownership worries him more.
Matt Riamondi, a 22-year-old business consultant from Beacon Hill, said having a hedge fund manager as an owner would be helpful for the Globe.
“The newspaper industry is in a period of change,” he said while sitting on a bench in the Public Garden. “To have someone in that line of business, who understands how money moves and who understands products, that could be useful to the Globe.”
Renee Sekerak, a 46-year-old freelance proof reader who was drying off her son William after he got out of the Frog Pond, said she wasn’t worried about a conflict of interest from Henry owning the Globe.
“I think the reporters will write what they want to write,” said Sekerak, who lives in Franklin.
Not all shared that opinion.
Brian Smith, 50 of Medway, who was selling Red Sox T-shirts and hats outside Fenway this afternoon on Lansdowne Street with his daughter, said he has read the Globe sports page religiously for 35 years. “Will McDonough, Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan, legendary sports writers, I grew up with those guys” he said.
But the news that John Henry has bought the Globe worries him.
“I’m not a big fan of it,” he said. “Reporting is supposed to be right down the middle. You’re supposed to be reporting the news, not making it. I don’t have a major problem with it, but I’d rather see someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.”
But Paul S. Grogan, president of Boston Foundation, looks at what Henry has done at Fenway Park and sees hope for the Globe, two aging institutions in need of constant renovation.
“If he does for the Globe what he did for the Red Sox, I think we’ll all be pleased,” he said. “There’s no guarantee of that, but he struck an awfully nice balance with the Red Sox, between paying homage to a venerable tradition while obviously marking out a new path for the ball club that has been incredibly successful.”
He noted there may be some “awkwardness” on the sports pages, but he called that “not a major worry.”
“I feel relieved and optimistic,” he said.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a statement called the impending Henry ownership “a winning combination,” while Attorney General Martha Coakley said she expect the Globe to remain “an essential part of our community.” And Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. David said, “John Henry is a true professional and a successful businessman. The newspaper couldn’t be in better hands.”
Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year and a lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, called having a local owner “really valuable” and noted how he brought two World Series victories to a club that had gone without one for 86 years. He added Henry has built the Red Sox Foundation into one of the region’s most important charitable institutions.
“My hope is that he’ll use his outstanding business acumen to reinvent the Globe for the 21st century to keep it the thriving local, state, and national institution that we all need it to be,” he said.