New York Times revives effort to sell Boston Globe

The New York Times, facing a difficult environment for newspapers in the digital age, announced Wednesday that it was reviving its efforts to sell The Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe headquarters are seen May 4, 2009 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The New York Times, facing a difficult environment for newspapers in the digital age, announced Wednesday a plan to sell The Boston Globe and other New England assets.

The Times said in a statement that it had hired Evercore Partners to advise the company and manage the sale process for The Boston Globe and other New England print and online assets.

The company aims to streamline its assets to promote its own marquee brand.

"Our plan to sell the New England Media Group demonstrates our commitment to concentrate our strategic focus and investment on The New York Times brand and its journalism," said Mark Thompson, president and chief executive of The New York Times Company.

Besides the Globe, the other assets up for sale are: Boston.com, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Telegram.com and GlobeDirect, the Globe's direct mail marketing company. Also included in the sale is the company's 49 percent interest in Metro Boston.

The effort announced Wednesday marks the second attempt by the New York Times Co. to sell The Boston Globe. In October 2009, it aborted an effort to sell the storied daily after receiving only low bids.

The decision to hold onto the Globe capped a turbulent period between the Boston paper and its New York parent company. At one point, the Times Co. threatened to shut down the Globe if unions did not agree to wage cuts and other cost-saving measures.

The Times Co. bought the Boston Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993 but the value of the newspaper has plummeted since then, along with the fortunes of the US newspaper industry.

However, there have been signs the Globe's fortunes have picked up somewhat compared with a few years ago. In September 2011, the Globe launched an online paywall program to charge readers for access to articles, a service that previously had been free.

Paid subscriptions to the Globe's digital products totaled about 28,000 at the end of the fourth quarter, up 8 percent from the third quarter of 2012, the Times Co. said in a February 7 earnings news release.

The New England Media Group's fourth-quarter revenues of $107.7 million were a fifth of those generated by the New York Times Media Group.

Times Co. chief financial officer Jim Follo told analysts that the Globe has seen "steady growth," but that its performance "is clearly not as impactful" as that of The New York Times.

"We see it as an incremental business," Follo said, according to a transcript of an earnings conference call with analysts.

The Times Co.'s announcement comes on the heels of the recent appointment to chief executive of former BBC director Thompson, who was hailed as a leader in digital publishing.

Earlier this month the Times Co. announced that for the first time in its history, in 2012 it had earned more revenue from circulation than from advertising. A key factor was the growth of digital subscriptions.

One "interesting" development was the growth in digital subscriptions outside the US, Thompson told analysts.

"We think that the potential to tap into larger reservoirs of potential users and subscribers is there," Thompson told analysts. "We're doing the work, trying to figure out region by region and country by country where the best opportunities are."

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