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Boston Globe publisher Christopher Mayer to step down

Christopher Mayer.

Boston Globe publisher Christopher Mayer said Wednesday that he plans to step down after nearly 30 years at the newspaper and four years at its helm, as part of a business transition under new owner John Henry.

“It’s a new year and with it comes the promise of change,’’ Mayer said in an e-mail to employees. “New ownership brings the opportunity of greater investment in the business and a new way to look at tackling the challenges that face us.’’

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Henry, who acquired the Globe from The New York Times Co. in October, has said he plans to hire a chief operating officer as he restructures the top of the organization. He has asked Mayer to stay on as a senior adviser “indefinitely.”

Mayer has been publisher of the Globe and its websites since 2010, leading the company out of a turbulent period during which the Times Co. threatened to shut down the paper, and returning the Globe to profitability.

“We are in Chris’s debt, for his nearly three decades of service and extraordinary leadership guiding the Globe through its most challenging days, and for the professional way he has overseen this major transition,” Henry said.

A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Yale University, Mayer has overseen numerous initiatives to keep the Globe’s journalism flourishing amid a difficult market for US newspapers. Notably, he has overseen the Globe’s two-brand online strategy, with BostonGlobe.com as a paid subscription site and Boston.com as a free site.

He also made the decision to raise subscription prices to better reflect the actual cost of delivering the paper, which helped steady the Globe’s finances. In addition, Mayer led the way to developing technology that allows readers to easily access Globe content on smartphones and other devices, and he moved the Globe into digital radio with the launch of RadioBDC.

Prior to being named publisher, Mayer served as chief information officer, head of circulation, and operations chief.

“Both of us will work together to make sure this is a smooth transition,’’ Mayer said, referring to Henry. He noted that 2013 was a remarkable year for the Globe, including the paper’s journalism and its smooth transition from Times Co. ownership.

Mayer said there would be no immediate change in day-to-day operations. “We have a management structure in place with talented people performing critical functions, and initiatives underway,” he said. “We need to continue on all fronts.”

Henry said he believes the Globe has “a very solid foundation” to move forward, despite the continuing financial challenges facing major metropolitan papers.

At a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Wednesday, Henry said he would work to increase the Globe’s online presence and explore a television offering. He also restated his commitment to increasing print circulation, which — as at other papers — has declined as more readers get their news online.

“We think the morning paper is one of the best experiences of daily life,” he said.

Henry has already made several moves, including the hiring of Mike Sheehan, a well-known Boston advertising executive, as a consultant.

And on Tuesday, editor Brian McGrory announced the hiring of John Allen from the National Catholic Reporter to work as a correspondent and analyst focused on coverage of the Catholic Church.

“In today’s world, you have to focus on the things you’re really good at,” Henry said at the chamber event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. He said the Globe aims to be the best news outlet covering Boston and New England.

In response to a question from the audience about how he would protect journalistic integrity as he sought to boost business, Henry said there was a solid wall between the newsroom and the Globe’s business side.

“Part of my job is to ensure that that remains,” he said.

Henry said the Globe will employ new approaches aimed at increasing advertising and will encourage companies and organizations to use ad pages in different ways. He also unveiled a program to give Globe subscribers vouchers they can direct to their favorite nonprofits. Those charities will be able to cash in the vouchers for advertising space with the Globe.

Henry promised to work as hard at the Globe as he has with the Red Sox and his Liverpool soccer club in England. He drew a link to his successful turnarounds of those teams, both of which have loyal fan bases and storied franchises.

“The Globe is a major, major challenge and it will take time,’’ he said, adding, “We will not rest.’’

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

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