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Henry purchase of Globe stalled for now

Boston Red SoxWe have an interesting situation in Beantown, where John Henry’s purchase of the Boston Globe has been stalled because of an impending class-action suit.

The basic story: Judge Shannon Frison of Worcester Superior Court ordered the sale of the Globe from The New York Times to Henry be suspended per the resolution of a pending class-action lawsuit brought by newspaper carriers seeking to be classified as employees, not contractors. Nothing to do with Henry’s purchase of the paper.

The bigger issue, though, is having someone who is such a high-profile news figure own a major newspaper that provides coverage on the owner’s activities. The sale, had it not been blocked, would have closed on Friday — scheduled for the same day as Game 3 of the World Series. Which, of course, prominently features Henry’s other prime bauble: the Boston Red Sox.

Now, you may ask how a newspaper owned by John Henry can objectively cover a team owned by John Henry. The answer, of course, is that it can’t: any time the newspaper isn’t as hard on Henry and the team as Red Sox partisans expect, the cry from the bar-stool pundits will be that the Globe is pulling its metaphorical punches. (Then again, the paper seems to be going out of its way to be hard on the Sox: today Geoff Edgers argued the team should stop playing “Sweet Caroline” — akin to asking the Red Sox not to sell Fenway Franks).

One issue to raise before the inevitable rips of Henry and the Globe: we’re guessing Henry is smart enough to realize that micromanaging coverage of the Red Sox would be a really bad business move. Boston is a keenly competitive media market: besides the Globe and the Herald there are a host of sport-talk stations (WEEI, WBZ) and plenty of writers and bloggers, including Peter Gammons. Turning the Globe into a cheerleader for the Sox would be the kiss of death for the property, and Henry didn’t accumulate big-time wealth because he made bad business decisions. Still, the discussion will be fascinating as it unwinds.


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