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“The night we talked about the newspaper, he said he always thought he was good at looking at things and making a decision without a lot of going back and forth,” Roger said. “He won’t say 100 percent have turned out right, but an awful lot have. He’s not nervous at all about it. He’s excited.”
Taylor first considered buying the Star Tribune before the 2009 bankruptcy, then displayed his trademark patience — waiting to make a tender offer after the paper emerged with less debt. He was going in on the deal with Vance Opperman, heir of a legal publishing fortune.
When the duo realized the bankrupt company’s price was nevertheless steep and they couldn’t grab enough stock to control the Star Tribune, they backed away for a few years.
“They see every deal in town, and they can pick and chose,” said Pflaum, the Minneapolis lawyer close to the newspaper deal. “It’s a much lower return than if he went out and bought another business, and that was one of the challenges for us in getting him to commit to this.”
Pflaum and Opperman made a civic pitch, urging Taylor to take a chance to keep a Minnesota news organization from the hands of an out-of-state chain.
His daughter Jean, who was skeptical of the investment, said that civic pitch seemed to sway him. He told her, “If I’m able to do it, I want to do it and make sure it remains an important part of Minnesota.”
He’s looking for the Star Tribune to improve on both its news pages and its balance sheet. But despite questions about the industry’s future, he’s encouraged about buying a newspaper with some 500,000 Sunday subscribers and more than 7 million unique monthly users across its digital platforms.
“I see a formula, businesswise, where it will pay for itself,” he said. “If I’m wrong, I will survive.”
The skeptics, pointing to intense competition for ad dollars as news organizations transition from print to digital technology, “might be right,” Taylor admitted. “But I’m telling you, I see it differently, and I guess I want to prove that, and see if it can’t be done.”
Curt Brown • 612-673-4767