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Times Co. hires firm to find buyer for The Boston Globe

The New York Times Co. said Wednesday that it plans to sell the New England Media Group, including The Boston Globe and its related online properties, and has hired an investment banker to find a buyer.

The Times Co. has hired Evercore Group, a New York-based firm that has been involved in other newspaper transactions, to help solicit bids from potential buyers.

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“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,” said Mark Thompson, chief executive of the Times Co., in a statement.

He said the Times was “proud of our association with the Globe” and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, but that “given the differences between these businesses and The New York Times, we believe that a sale is in the best long-term interests of these properties and the employees who work for them as well as in the best interests of our shareholders.”

The Times Co. last tried to sell the Globe in 2009, after first threatening to shut the newspaper down because it was losing money. After receiving wage cuts and other cost-saving concessions from Globe employees, the Times Co. decided not to sell at that time, saying it had received bids lower than it had hoped from two different business groups.

Since then, the Times Co. has sold a number of its other properties, including its newspapers in Florida and California, a stake in the Boston Red Sox and a number of broadcast outlets. It also sold the website About.com.

Evercore has been involved in selling the San Diego Union-Tribune, BusinessWeek, Newsweek and Variety.

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The current sale plan, in addition to the Globe and Worcester Telgram, includes BostonGlobe.com, Boston.com, Telegram.com and the Globe’s direct mail marketing company, GlobeDirect. It also would include the company’s 49 percent stake in Metro Boston.

The Globe and its online businesses BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com made an operating profit in 2012, according to people briefed on the financial results, although after various accounting charges and other items there was a net loss. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the results publicly. The Globe and its businesses also were profitable in 2011.

The Times Co. said there could be no assurance that any transaction will take place. The company declined to comment on the plans to sell the Globe and the other properties.

In an e-mail to employees this afternoon, Thompson and Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said, “Over the past several years, we have recast our company, introducing new products and business models, while delivering the highest quality journalism to our readers and advertisers. During that same time, we have made some difficult decisions about the direction and composition of our Company.”

They said the sale of the New England media group would “allow us to sharpen our strategic and financial focus on The New York Times brand.”

The Times Co. bought the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion, which was then a record in the newspaper business. Shares of the Times Co. closed at $9.04, down 3 cents.

The Globe had a Sunday paid circulation of 372,541 in September, according to the Chicago-based Audit Bureau, up 3.4 percent from a year earlier. Daily circulation was 230,351, up 11.9 percent.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.

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