Boston Red Sox, Globe combine

The further concentration of the ownership of the monopoly media and professional sports by big capital

Bill Mitchell on Facebook notes that main Red Sox owner John Henry, a finance capitalist, just bought the 141-year-old Boston Globe and its affiliated companies from the New York Times for $70 million, less than one month after this deal:

Boston Globe  Dustin Pedroia’s new eight-year deal is worth $110 million, according to a source, making him baseball’s highest-paid second baseman.

The sun beamed on Fenway Park. About 200 fans sat in the stands. Camera crews broadcast the news conference live.
“This contract gives Dustin a very good chance to finish his career in Boston,” general manager Ben Cherington said.

The deal runs through 2021, at which time Pedroia, already a four-time All-Star, will be 38.

In addition to the Globe, Henry will be acquiring the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and its website, the Globe’s direct mail business, and a 49 per cent interest in the free Metro Boston newspaper. The murky deal is expected to close in 30 to 60 days.

Henry is a finance capitalist, a private equity billionaire. According to the Globe, “A mild-mannered billionaire who made his fortune in managing funds and trading commodities, he has built a sprawling sports empire that includes the Red Sox and New England Sports Network, as well as the Liverpool soccer club and Roush Fenway Racing, a NASCAR team.”

Henry’s Fenway Sports Group owns the majority 80 per cent stake in New England Sports Network, a regional cable network and another big business player in the region. The remaining 20 per cent is owned by Delaware North, owners of the Boston Bruins.

The deal represents the further concentration of ownership of the monopoly media and professional sports by big capital. In Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, Tribune, Turner and Murdoch cross-ownership has been exposed for decades. In Canada, Bell Canada and Rogers Communications own TSN and Rogers Sportsnet cable respectively, jointly own Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (with franchises in the NHL, NBA, and MLS), and Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB).

The Times Co. had owned 17.5 per cent of the Red Sox, something the Globe disclosed in virtually every story or column mentioning the team. That is rather like the disclaimer/disclosure that MLB.com, itself innately conflicted, puts at the bottom of each of its stories, saying that it “was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.” Of course, by that time, one has already read the article.

Journalistic integrity

Henry, in a statement, deflected the issue of whether his ownership of the paper represents a blatant conflict of interest.

“Now that I have a prospective role in Globe leadership, if I were foolish enough to try to influence Sox coverage by the Globe, I would only succeed in diminishing the value of both great institutions,” he said.

It is well known that, even if this diversionary profession is the case, handpicked editors adjust their coverage accordingly. Numerous sports writers also pad their income by doublebilling. For instance, Dan Shaughnessy, Nick Cafardo, Peter Abraham and Michael Vega of The Boston Globe make regular appearances on the Pregame Show before Red Sox games aired on the New England Sports Network, making them in effect contract employees of the sports monopoly.

Henry’s bid amounted to a fraction of the $1.1 billion the Times Co. paid for the Globe in 1993 and the $295 million it paid for the Worcester T&G in 1999.

According to the Globe, during that period, however, the Times cannibalized the operation: “the Times Co. was able to withdraw a large stream of cash from the Globe during its high-earning years in the 1990s and early 2000s.”

In 2009, the Times Co. first tried to sell the Globe in 2009, after threatening to shut it down because it was losing money. In April, 2009, the Times Co. threatened to close The Boston Globe unless the newspaper’s unions swiftly agreed to $20 million in concessions. The American Newspaper Guild, the largest union, itself agreed to $10 million of the cuts. The white collar guild predictably hailed Henry’s acquisition.

Tony Seed, with thanks to Sam Smith’s UNDERNEWS for the lead

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