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In Globe visit, John Henry plays role of observer

Declines to offer hints on plans for company

Prospective Boston Globe owner John W. Henry (left) talked with graphic designer David Butler on Monday during a newsroom tour.

Bill Greene/Globe Staff

Prospective Boston Globe owner John W. Henry (left) talked with graphic designer David Butler on Monday during a newsroom tour.

John W. Henry spent several hours at The Boston Globe Monday, meeting employees desk-by-desk in the newsroom and other departments, less than three days after the Red Sox owner agreed to buy the newspaper from the New York Times Co.

Henry’s first stop was to introduce himself at the end of the regular 10:30 a.m. editors meeting, escorted by Globe publisher Christopher Mayer. Henry told editors planning Tuesday’s paper that he was excited to be “part of the team,” but was in the building only to observe and listen.

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To emphasize his stated intention to steer clear of influencing news decisions, Henry said he wouldn’t take a seat at the meeting table with the editors. He joked that doing so might give “the wrong impression.”

The visit came just a few hours before another major US newspaper said it was being sold to a billionaire businessman. In a move that surprised many veteran industry observers, The Washington Post said it had agreed to be acquired by Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos for $250 million, ending decades of ownership by the Graham family.

At the Globe, Henry declined to offer details about his plans for the company’s future, saying it would be “presumptuous to talk about much of anything until we close [the deal].” But he still made plenty of time to chat, devoting 90 minutes to navigate through the newsroom on Morrissey Boulevard and engage in one-on-one conversations with reporters, editors, designers, and photographers.

Henry, 63, also had a lunch meeting with the Globe’s senior management and afterward spent time in the sports department, talking with sports editor Joe Sullivan and other staffers.

Globe editor Brian McGrory, in a meeting with the staff Monday afternoon at which Henry was not present, said he was optimistic about the future under a new owner.

McGrory said Henry told him he wants to boost revenues rather than slash costs, and does not plan to influence the paper’s coverage of the Red Sox.

“I was adamant with him that our coverage wouldn’t change. But I didn’t have to be, because he was adamant with me that our coverage wouldn’t change,’’ McGrory said.

“He would, in his view, only diminish the value of the Globe and the Red Sox if he tried to influence our coverage in any way at all.”

The Times Co. said early Saturday morning that the company had agreed to sell the Globe, its websites, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and other assets to Henry for $70 million. He is the majority owner of the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group, which owns the New England Sports Network, the Liverpool soccer club, and a NASCAR race team.

He bested a half-dozen rival bidders to buy the Globe, including some who offered the Times Co. more money.

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