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Boston Capital

Mayor Walsh looks to woo N.Y. financial firms

You have to give Mayor Marty Walsh credit for connecting with Boston’s business community right out of the chute.

Walsh doesn’t always say a lot, but the new mayor is a frequent presence at very public business events. This is especially true when it comes to the city’s bustling technology industry. One day he’s out talking up the MassChallenge competition, the next he’s speaking to the Mass Technology Leadership Council.

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But the mayor has also been having much more private conversations about Boston’s ability to attract business from a different industry. The question: how to persuade New York financial companies to move at least some operations to Boston.

Luring financial service jobs away from New York is hardly an original idea. But it’s a front-burner topic now because New York’s liberal new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is scaring the bejeebers out of a lot of people on Wall Street with his tax-the-rich rhetoric.

Some political leaders see this as a window of opportunity. As political and economic development opportunities go, it’s red meat for such Republicans as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and even Florida Governor Rick Scott, both of whom have made it clear they’ve got nothing against the 1 percent.

But it has to be a sensitive topic for Boston’s new Democratic mayor, who raised his own concerns about the widening gap between rich and poor during the campaign.

Walsh has been reaching out recently for advice about pursuing Wall Street firms, according to several local business executives. The mayor is said to have scheduled a meeting with some of these local executives on the subject for later this week.

I didn’t get a response from City Hall when I asked about this last week.

No doubt, Boston officials could and would make a pitch to financial companies based on resources such as the city’s sizable industry and workforce, relative affordability, the availability of locations near downtown — and, yes, lower taxes.

New York’s financial giants have been moving jobs — especially mid-level positions — for several years. Though some go overseas, others land elsewhere in the United States.

It’s worth trying to get some of them. It’s also a good sign that Boston’s mayor is looking to bring jobs to the city, regardless of the politics.

.   .   .

Did I break the cone of silence?

I’m not just talking into my shoe. The issue: Why did negotiations for a Boston medical megamerger break down? One answer may have appeared here three months ago.

The talks in question were three-way negotiations to merge Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lahey Health, and the powerful physician group Atrius Health into one medical giant. They officially fell apart at the end of last week.

A million complications could have derailed those talks, and the news came as no shock. Getting three groups of doctors to agree on a carpet swatch would qualify as a long shot.

But reading the Globe’s Robert Weisman over the weekend, I was struck by news that the talks apparently began to stumble over a perceived lapse in secrecy — what the negotiators called their “cone of silence.”

For the moment, skip over the fact that people imagining a medical center of the future were negotiating with terms borrowed from a 1960s sitcom. Also, put aside the reality that the talks were among the worst-kept secrets in Boston medical circles.

I’m told one of the earliest cracks in the negotiations were comments made here by Kevin Tabb, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess. I wrote a column in November about Tabb’s impressive record of reaching deals with other hospitals and brought up the possibility of a merger with Lahey and Atrius.

This is what he had to say in print: “It’s very compelling to have us all together. But not everything that makes sense ends up happening.”

And that’s the truth.

The Red Herring

Last week, I wrote that improving investment performance had not translated into much more business at Putnam Investments. Since then, Putnam’s parent has posted results for the final quarter of 2013. It said Putnam recorded net mutual fund sales of $1.8 billion, its best quarter in more than a decade, though institutional clients pulled out more money than they added.

Steven Syre is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at syre@globe.com.
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