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Connors joins group of investors looking to purchase Globe

Jack Connors, one of Boston’s most prominent businessmen, founded the advertising firm Hill Holliday. Jack Connors, one of Boston’s most prominent businessmen, founded the advertising firm Hill Holliday. (Dominic Chavez/Globe Staff/File 2008)
By Brian McGrory
Globe Staff / May 26, 2011

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Prominent Boston businessman Jack Connors has joined a group of investors preparing an offer to buy The Boston Globe, adding new credibility to an investment team that has worked for over a year to raise funds.

Connors immediately becomes the best known and deepest-rooted member of the city’s business community to join forces with Aaron Kushner, the Wellesley entrepreneur who is attempting to put together a bid for the New England Media Group, which includes the Globe, its website, Boston.com, and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

“I am an investor,’’ Connors said in a brief interview yesterday. Kushner declined to comment.

While Connors’s initial financial commitment is believed to be relatively small, his presence in the group could potentially lure other prominent investors into the fray, some of whom have been interested but noncommittal thus far.

Former Globe executives Benjamin and Stephen Taylor have said they will provide funding and advice to Kushner, but have declined to say how much money they will invest.

Connors comes to the group with the cachet of being part of a prior offer to buy the newspaper when it was actually known to be for sale. In 2009, he teamed with private equity investor and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca in a bid that was abandoned when Pagliuca instead launched an unsuccessful campaign for the US Senate. At the time, it was believed that The New York Times Co., which owns the Globe, had sought out Connors’s involvement.

The machinations within the Boston business community are being played out against the backdrop of the Times Co.’s public stance on a possible sale of the Globe, which is that the paper isn’t on the market.

Times Co. chief executive Janet Robinson, in a meeting with Globe editors and reporters last week, declared that the Globe is not for sale.

“One of the things we say often, and it can’t be said enough in this community: The New York Times is very proud of The Boston Globe,’’ Robinson said. “We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made. We’re very proud of its commitment to quality journalism.’’

In the same session, Robinson acknowledged that, as a publicly traded company, the Times Co. would have to entertain any serious offer for the newspaper.

Kushner has cast a broad net across the business community in Boston and elsewhere in pursuit of funds, and has revisited many potential investors — including Connors — who rejected his prior entreaties.

Last week, in reaction to Robinson’s comments, Kushner released a statement saying that he was preparing a bid that would be “compelling for the health and long-term success of the institution itself, and for The New York Times financially.’’

Connors founded the Boston advertising firm Hill Holliday, from which he is now retired. He serves as chairman of the board of Partners HealthCare, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and is the state’s largest health care provider.

He is also a legendary fund-raiser for various nonprofit — and recently, political — causes, including the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Last week, President Obama was the headliner at a national Democratic fund-raiser held at Connors’s Brookline house. The event cost $35,800 per couple.

Brian McGrory can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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