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“It’s a management team that has acted smartly,” said Doctor, a former managing editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “With Taylor and his M.O. of owning many, many businesses, it’s kind of like Warren Buffett. You want a business that is well-run.”
Mutter said Taylor and the other wealthy new media owners across the country hearken back to an earlier era, when owning a newspaper was more of a way to stake a claim in a community than a way to make money.
“In the history of publishing in North America, people bought newspapers for fun, clout and profit,” Mutter said. “And profit wasn’t always even the number one reason.”
Up until the 20th century, most newspapers were owned by individuals and backed by political parties, Mutter said. Only after World War II did the number of newspapers start to shrink, publishers realized that they needed the biggest possible audience in order to charge more for advertising, and newspaper companies started to go public.
As Benton, of the Nieman Lab, has noted, there has been a bit of a trend in owners of sports teams buying — or trying to buy — major metro newspapers. Henry owns both the Globe and the Boston Red Sox. In Louisiana, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson tried but failed to buy the Times-Picayune. Dodgers owner Mark Walter has expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Times.
As it turns out, the same pool of high-net-worth people who have the means to buy a sports team also are the ones who can buy a newspaper. Outside of sports teams and newspapers, there aren’t many other trophy purchases available in a given metro area.
“Other than the newspaper and the sports teams, what else is there?” Mutter said. “You can’t own the museum, you can’t own the symphony.”
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 • @adambelz