By Jimmy Golen
BOSTON: John W. Henry took a backward ballclub in a dilapidated park and transformed it into a two-time World Series champion that is one of baseball’s model franchises.
As the owner of the Boston Globe, he will try to turn around a newspaper that — like many other major metro dailies — is shedding staff, subscribers and advertisers as it makes the transition into the Internet age.
Henry agreed to buy the Globe along with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Boston Metro for $70 million, a fraction of the $1.1 billion the New York Times Co. paid 20 years ago. Henry apparently made this deal without his Red Sox partners, though he said in a news release that more information will soon be available “concerning those joining me in this community commitment and effort.”
The son of southern Illinois soybean farmers now worth an estimated $1.5 billion, Henry was a minority owner of the New York Yankees and the sole owner of the Florida Marlins when he led a group that bought the Red Sox for $660 million in 2002.
They soon set out to preserve Fenway Park while taking a wrecking ball to most everything else that had mired the franchise in failure for more than eight decades.
Henry, who made his money by taking a mathematical approach to the commodities markets, brought a similar method to the baseball diamond, hiring the statistically savvy Theo Epstein, then 28 years old, as the youngest general manager in baseball history. They hired statistical pioneer Bill James as a consultant, putting the Red Sox at the forefront of the revolution that had just begun to take hold in front offices long dominated by old-time and hidebound scouting types.
Through a sister company, the Red Sox owners bought into NASCAR as co-owners of Roush Fenway Racing; soccer, by purchasing the Liverpool FC of the English Premier League; and basketball, through a sponsorship deal with LeBron James. Their business offshoot, known as New England Sports Ventures, has also dabbled in marketing for college sports and professional golf.
In buying a newspaper, Henry enters an industry in turmoil and joins a progression of publishers who have tried to balance the free-flowing information of the internet with the costs of quality journalism.