The prospect of Boston Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry buying The Boston Globe has sparked a mix of optimism and concern from civic leaders to fans of both the team and the paper, institutions that have helped define Boston for more than a century.
Governor Deval Patrick said Henry’s Red Sox leadership reflects well on his impending ownership of the paper and its media affiliates, a deal the Globe’s current owner, the New York Times Co., agreed to early Saturday morning for $70 million in cash.
“The Boston Globe is an American institution and a vital source of information here in Massachusetts and across New England,” Patrick said in a statement. “John Henry has already proven his dedication to the Commonwealth with his winning stewardship of the Boston Red Sox, and I have every confidence that he will bring that same level of excellence to this new endeavor.”
Others were less sanguine about the Globe being owned by a major local institution that it spends a lot of ink, web postings, pixels, and tweets covering.
At Fenway Park on Friday night, as rumors circulated about Henry’s purchase of the Globe, former Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn said he had heard some doubts and questions, from whether the 141-year-old newspaper would continue to challenge the Red Sox about its perennially steep tickets prices and question the team’s commitment to remaining in the championship hunt. Others worried about Henry acquiring too much power in town.
“I want the Globe to be able to be critical of great institutions in the city — like the Red Sox — when they’re wrong,” Flynn said. “I want a paper that will protect the sports consumers’ interests, which calls it like it sees it — like an umpire.”
From the State House to city streets, newspapers readers and Red Sox fans, along with business people and those who never follow sports, offered opinions on the impending sale.
Craig Scaperotta, 68, of Cambridge, was sitting outside 1369 Coffee House Saturday morning reading the Globe with his morning coffee. He has read the paper every morning for 37 years, he said, and is happy a local owner has taken the reins.
“I wouldn’t want the Koch Brothers,” he said, referring to the billionaire supporters of conservative causes who have expressed interest in media investments.
Scaperotta isn’t concerned about a potential conflict of interest, he said. Consolidation of media ownership worries him more.
Matt Riamondi, a 22-year-old business consultant from Beacon Hill, said having a businessman as an owner would benefit the paper.
“The newspaper industry is in a period of change,” he said Saturday in the Public Garden. “To have someone in that line of business, who understands how money moves and who understands products, that could be useful to the Globe.”
Renee Sekerak, a 46-year-old freelance proofreader who was with her son at the Frog Pond, said she isn’t worried about a conflict of interest with Henry owning a newspaper that chronicles his team.
“I think the reporters will write what they want to write,” said Sekerak, of Franklin.
Not all shared that opinion.
Brian Smith, 50, of Medway, who was selling Red Sox T-shirts and hats outside Fenway Saturday afternoon, said he has read the Globe sports page religiously for 35 years. “Will McDonough, Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan, legendary sports writers — I grew up with those guys,” he said.
But he worries now that John Henry has bought the Globe.
“I’m not a big fan of it,” he said. “Reporting is supposed to be right down the middle. You’re supposed to be reporting the news, not making it.”
But Paul S. Grogan, president of Boston Foundation, looks at what Henry has done at Fenway Park and sees hope for the Globe, another aging institution in need of constant renovation.
“If he does for the Globe what he did for the Red Sox, I think we’ll all be pleased,” he said. “There’s no guarantee of that, but he struck an awfully nice balance with the Red Sox, between paying homage to a venerable tradition while obviously marking out a new path for the ball club that has been incredibly successful.”
In statements, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino called the impending Henry ownership “a winning combination,” while Attorney General Martha Coakley said she expected the Globe to remain “an essential part of our community,” and Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said, “John Henry is a true professional and a successful businessman. The newspaper couldn’t be in better hands.”
Alan Khazei, cofounder of City Year and a lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, called having a local owner “really valuable” and noted how Henry brought two World Series victories to a club that had gone 86 years without one. He added Henry has built the Red Sox Foundation into one of the region’s most important charitable institutions.
“My hope is that he’ll use his outstanding business acumen to reinvent the Globe for the 21st century to keep it the thriving local, state, and national institution that we all need it to be,” he said.
Like many others in the city, Harvey A. Silverglate, a prominent civil liberties lawyer and author in Boston, said he had been anxiously awaiting word about who would buy the Globe since the Times Co. said it would sell the paper and its websites in February. The move came more than three years after it failed to sell the Globe amid the recession and the newspaper’s mounting losses.
Given the alternative bidders, Silverglate said he was “very relieved.”
“I suspect that John Henry is the type of fellow who will take seriously the mission of one of the country’s major, and few remaining, viable daily newspapers,” he said. “He has taken that kind of interest in the baseball team to which he’s devoted much time, resources, and attention, and I think we can expect he’ll take a similar approach to the Globe. I think he understands that even though the Globe will have to continue to change to meet modern conditions, its essential mission must remain undamaged.”