From Boston hero to goat, billionaire John Henry takes on Globe challenge
By Tim McLaughlin
BOSTON (Reuters) - As recently as five years ago, billionaire John Henry, could do no wrong in Boston, but since then the image of the man who agreed to buy the Boston Globe on Saturday has taken a beating.
The principal owner of the city's beloved Boston Red Sox delivered not one, but two World Series championships (2004 and 2008) to a region that had endured an 86-year drought.
He remade the team's Fenway Park, now 101 years old, into a modern venue with sold-out attendance that stretched for years. He has bested the hated New York Yankees and shown marketing genius by using Fenway to host signature events that have nothing to do with baseball, such as having a Bruce Springsteen concert there or attracting some of European soccer's best teams for exhibition matches.
But the 63-year-old Henry, who becomes the largest employer of journalists in Boston with his purchase of the Boston Globe from the New York Times Co, has a somewhat tattered image in a city that once celebrated him as a hero. Some of his problems stem from columnists and reporters who will now call him boss.
He was born in Quincy, Illinois, the son of soybean farmers. He made his fortune trading soybeans and other commodities. One of his innovations was developing an automated way for managing a futures trading account in the late 1970s.
But in recent years, he has been called eccentric and aloof and even distracted by his purchase of England's Liverpool Football Club. Perhaps his greatest sin was allowing the Red Sox last year to slip into last place in their division. The return to the cellar came after a Boston Globe story revealed how some of the team's best pitchers drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse during one of the worst late-season collapses in Major League Baseball history during the 2011 season.
The bashing of Henry and the Red Sox got so bad in the fall of 2011 that he raced to the studios of a top Boston sports radio show to defend himself and his team. It made for riveting theater as the soft-spoken Henry distanced himself from some of the free-agent signings that led to the team's implosion.
Henry has agreed to buy the Globe newspaper and other properties for $70 million, a song compared to the $1 billion-plus the New York Times Co paid for them about 20 years ago. But like every other daily newspaper in a major American city, the Globe has lost advertising, readers and prestige. Continued...