- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

After months of family squabbles, the New York Times is interested in finding a new parent for its billion-dollar baby.

The Gray Lady wants to sell the Boston Globe to an as-yet unnamed buyer, according to an account in the Globe on Wednesday, following intense negotiations that failed to resolve union conflicts that have plagued the uneasy relationship between the two papers.

The Times hired Goldman Sachs to manage the sale of the 137-year-old Massachusetts paper, purchased for $1.1 billion in 1993. The parent company plans to entertain bids in the next few weeks, the Globe said, citing two anonymous sources who claimed they had serious offers.

The revelation follows a union vote taken Monday at the Globe that became a news event in itself after hundreds of journalists and business employees rejected the Times’ demands that they come up with $10 million in concessions on wages and benefits or risk the shuttering of the paper. The union rejected the move, by a vote of 277-265.

In a progression of hardball management, the Globe management then announced a unilateral 23 percent wage reduction for union members to meet its cost-reduction quota. The match had begun.

Within 24 hours, the union formally filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. A group of “concerned reporters” at the Globe also sent a letter Tuesday to Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., explaining their reasoning and appealing to his “fair-minded leadership.”

They got an almost immediate reaction.

“You are correct that I had hoped this would work out differently, and that a timely solution would be found for the Globe to achieve the necessary savings without Guild employees suffering a huge wage cut,” Mr. Sulzberger wrote back in an e-mail.

“Unfortunately, despite tireless efforts by Globe negotiators to do that, just as they successfully did with each of the Globe’s other major unions, the Guild’s bargaining posture made that task impossible. We are now left with no alternative other than to proceed with the wage reduction,” he continued.

The Globe, he said, simply could not survive without union concessions and cost reductions - which ultimately totaled $20 million from several Globe unions.

The Boston paper followed with a return volley, offering the news that serious - but unnamed - buyers were already considering purchasing the property, quoting former Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler.

“The Boston Globe franchise - the brand of Boston Globe journalism - is extremely valuable. Right now, it just has to find the business model to sustain it,” Mr. Fiedler said.

The Globe is now losing more than $1 million a week. The Times, meanwhile, has suffered through employee buyouts, pay cuts and a 28 percent drop in advertising revenue. The two papers are not alone in their struggles. Rising costs and competition from the Internet and broadcast have prompted struggling print papers to seek innovative ways to “monetize” their content through multimedia delivery.

Almost 6,000 newspaper journalists lost their jobs last year - the biggest one-year drop in history - according to an official account released in April by the American Society of News Editors, which has conducted annual newsroom surveys for more than three decades.

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