Heslam: Many obstacles for new owner

Feb 21, 2013

The new owner of The Boston Globe will face a raft of decisions by taking the rudder of the struggling broadsheet — from cost-saving layoffs to investments in its digital platforms, to how best to milk its assets, including its profitable printing 
operation and its sizable real estate holdings, 
experts said.“Whoever buys this is going to immediately, within 60 to 90 days, have to eliminate — in my humble opinion — about 15 percent of the work staff,” said newspaper broker Kevin Kamen, president and CEO of Kamen & Co. Group Services in New York.

Jim Romenesko, editor of media blog jimromenesko
.com, also said there could be cuts — unless the new owner is someone like Aaron Kushner, the Wellesley greeting-card entrepreneur who sought to buy the Globe two years ago before purchasing the Orange County Register. Kushner’s group is bucking the cost-thrashing trend of the newspaper industry by adding more sections to the newspaper and hiring a small army of reporters.

“If Aaron Kushner buys it, he’ll beef it up,” Romenesko said. “Anyone else will probably slice and dice — and call it ‘rightsizing.’ ”

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, called Kushner’s approach a “non-conforming strategy these days” but agreed it was a possibility for the Globe.

Kamen doesn’t believe a new owner would scuttle the paper and go all digital with its online platforms, boston.com and boston globe.com.

“They’re not going to pay all this money just to go digital,” Kamen explained. “Whoever buys it is going to want to put their feet down in Boston. Whoever buys this is going to have to immediately make cost-cutting changes and 
really focus in on hammering away at the competition.”

On the plus side, any new owner of the Globe could count on revenues from the paper’s profitable printing business. The Globe prints several other newspapers, including The Enterprise of Brockton, The Patriot Ledger and the Boston Herald.

But relying on the printing business likely would tie the new owner’s hands regarding the paper’s other huge asset, its Morrissey Boulevard property. One past Globe bidder sug­gested recently that whoever buys the paper would do well to relocate the staff and printing operation and then sell the Dorchester property.