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GLOBE, GUILD NEGOTIATE; BUYERS LINE UP IN BOSTON Goldman Sachs retained; three groups emerge as potential bidders.

As executives from the Boston Globe and its largest union, The Newspaper Guild/CWA, talked into the night, the paper's owner continued apace to find a buyer for the troubled operation, while new owners took over a group of papers 100 miles away.

Ostensibly to be a discussion about how management planned to implement a 23-percent wage cut that had come about because the Globe's Guild unit last week had rejected a proposal for lesser wage cuts -- but with pension freezes and job-security take-backs -- the two sides had apparently entered into a marathon negotiating session. As of midnight, Eastern time, tonight, the two sides had met for more than 12 hours and the Globe reported that management had called the discussion "substantive."

The Globe's owner, The New York Times Co., had said earlier this year that the paper, its web site and the suburban Worcester Telegram & Gazette were poised to lose $85 million this year and that the company needed $20 million in concessions from all its unions. Mailers, truck drivers and press operators had given the company $10 million in votes in recent weeks, but The Guild's membership rejected an proposal that accounted for the other $10 million last week.

Management had said before the vote that should The Guild not accept the proposal, it would declare an impasse and impose a 23-percent across-the-board wage cut, which it did. The union then filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, the first hearing for which was scheduled for tomorrow.

Last week The Times Co. moved forward with its plan to sell some or all of its New England operations. On Wednesday, the Globe reported that The Times Co. had retired Goldman Sachs to sell its New England group; the company had retained the Wall street investment firm earlier in the year to sell its stake in the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

By Friday, conventional wisdom in Boston had coalesced around three potential buying groups for the operations. One group is apparently being led by Stephen Pagliuca, another by Jack Connors and a third by Stephen Taylor. Pagliuca is a private-equity executive and a co-owner of the Boston Celtics basketball team; Connors is an advertising executive and chairman of the non-profit that owns Massachusetts General Hospital, and Taylor is a former Globe executive who is a member of the family that sold the paper to The Times Co. in 1993.

None of the potential buyers made any meaningful comments on a potential acquisition.

The paper reported that The Times Co. wants to cull a list of second-round bidders by the end of the month. The process awaits a company balance sheet from The Times Co. on the operations (which, in turn, awaits a deal with The Guild; see above).

Meanwhile, 100 miles away in Portland, Maine, the Portland Press Herald/Main Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, the MaineToday Web sites and niche publications were finally sold tonight, the Press Herald reported on its web site.

The deal, 15 months in the making, turns the papers over to an investment group led by Richard Connor, a longtime newspaper executive, who becomes the operation's editor and publisher. Connor remains editor and publisher of the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He was an executive with Capital Cities Newspapers and publisher of Texas' Fort Worth Star-Telegram before launching Lionheart Newspapers in the 1990s.

The seller was The Seattle Times Co., which bought the papers from Guy Gannett Publishing Co. in 1998. The Times Co. had taken on a heavy debt load to buy the group and amid the advertising downturn had struggled to service the debt. No terms for the deal were revealed.

The Globe reported today that some or all of the bidders to buy the paper might join forces, citing "two people involved in the possible purchase of the newspaper." The idea, apparently, is that the groups would join to buy the properties together and then split them into three distinct parts: the real estate involved, the print operations and the on-line operations. I guess who would get what would be determined by a coin toss, with the loser getting the print stuff.
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Title Annotation:Globe Newspaper Co.
Date:Jun 15, 2009
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