New York Times Co. will explore sale of Boston Globe

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The New York Times Co. has hired Evercore Partners to advise it on a possible sale of The Boston Globe, the Globe’s Beth Healy writes, confirming a report by Bloomberg’s Edmund Lee and Jeffrey McCracken.

“Our plan to sell the New England Media Group demonstrates our commitment to concentrate our strategic focus and investment on The New York Times brand and its journalism,” Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson said in a press release. The New England Media Group also includes the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Globe’s online properties.

“We are seeing the first fruits of Mark Thompson’s yet-to-be-fully-revealed new strategy,” Poynter business analyst Rick Edmonds said in an email. “The Times Co. has a very full plate managing its flagship — including ambitious and probably expensive plans for international expansion on top of a raft of digital initiatives. The Globe and its issues are a distraction from that work and possibly a strain on financial resources as well.”

The Times Co. last considered selling the Boston paper in 2009 but decided against it. In 2011, Rick Edmonds wrote that a Globe sale was improbable when Aaron Kushner reportedly tried to buy the paper. Kushner now owns the Orange County Register.

Edmonds said Kushner “may again be a prospect if he has other investors who share his unconventional vision of what newspapers need to do next (i.e. build back news resources and circulation appeal).”

“It is pretty much a sure thing, though, that the sale price will be a small fraction of what the Times Co. paid for the Globe 20 years ago,” Edmonds said. Times Co. paid $1.1 billion for the paper in 1993.

Evercore handled the sale last year of Philadelphia’s newspapers to a group of local investors.

In its year-end financial results, the Times Co. said earnings at the New England Media Group were essentially flat over 2011. Including digital subscriptions, the Globe had an average Sunday circulation of 372,541 in September 2012, up 3 percent over the year before. Average daily circulation was up nearly 11 percent. The Globe had “approximately 28,000″ paid digital subscribers at the end of the year, Times Co. reported.

Brian McGrory was named the paper’s new editor in December, after Marty Baron announced he would step down as Globe editor last year to become executive editor of The Washington Post. In a telephone interview with Poynter conducted last Friday, McGrory spoke of the Globe’s plan to “untangle” its two websites and get more revenue from casual readers.

“This was not an easy decision as the New England Media Group has, for many years, brought tremendous value to our Company,” Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wrote in a memo to staffers.

“There is no synergy to speak of between the Times and the Globe,” Edmonds said. “The Times has never sent its own people to run the Boston Globe, nor has it existed as a farm system. With the Globe for sale, it now sits alongside the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — big metro papers with lots of challenges, and a potential pool of local buyers who want to step up.”

In December 2011, the Times Co. sold its Regional Newspapers Group, the first of several notable assets sales including its stake in the Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, and the content farm About.com.

The Times’ site has a good history of Times Co.’s ownership of the Globe, with many links.

Times Co. stock rose sharply Tuesday after the announcement.

Related: If Business Insider bought The Boston Globe

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