A BAR CHART IN TUESDAY'S BUSINESS SECTION SHOWING CIRCULATION DECLINES AT THE BOSTON GLOBE SINCE 1993 WAS MISLABELED. THE LATEST FIGURES WERE FOR 1999. (PUBLISHED 07/15/99)
The New York Times Co. yesterday fired Benjamin Taylor as publisher of the Boston Globe, ending 126 years of operational control by the Taylor family and consolidating the Big Apple takeover of New England's largest newspaper.
The Times Co. installed one of its senior vice presidents, Richard H. Gilman, as the paper's new publisher, prompting immediate speculation about whether top editors' heads might roll as the Globe battles a circulation slide.
A morning management meeting in which Taylor bowed out and Gilman was greeted by silence "had the feeling of a hostile takeover," said veteran Globe columnist Ellen Goodman. At a larger newsroom session, William O. Taylor, the older cousin who was publisher until 1997, expressed the family's sadness and recited a prayer about God granting him the courage to change what he could and the serenity to accept what he could not.
One staffer complained at the meeting of "non-answers" when Gilman and Benjamin Taylor would not specify what changes might be in store.
"It's not an easy day," Taylor, 52, said in a joint telephone interview with Gilman. He said the Times Co. had replaced him because of "differences in our approach to management. We're really not going to go into detail. It's not constructive to go any further than that, quite frankly. Everyone is trying to focus here on moving forward."
The Times Co. bought the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion, granting Taylor a five-year employment contract and a promise of complete editorial independence during that period. The purchase inflamed the old Boston-New York rivalry, with the Globe bridling at the notion it is just one of 23 newspapers owned by a Manhattan conglomerate.
Gilman, 48, said he is "committed to holding the Globe's editorial independence" and plans "no major changes" in news coverage. Asked whether Editor Matthew Storin would remain, Gilman said he has "complete confidence" in Storin.
"They made it clear they not only wanted me to stay but hoped I would stay," Storin said, referring to discussions with Gilman and Times Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. He said he believes the move "has more to do with process and personalities than with specific agendas and issues."
"While it's a jarring change, and you can't expect them to have the emotional connection the Taylor family has, I have faith that they have our best interests at heart," Storin said.
The Globe's average daily circulation is 469,000, down from 505,000 when the Times Co. made the purchase. Sunday circulation is 730,000, down from 811,000 in 1993 and from 748,000 just a year ago. Gilman said he would "continue to search for additional answers" to reverse the decline at the 15th-largest U.S. paper.
"We're not happy with what's happening in circulation," Taylor acknowledged, although he said the paper's Internet site has been quite popular. The Globe is planning a Saturday night "bulldog" edition to boost Sunday sales.
Newspaper analyst John Morton said the Globe remains strong, noting that while revenue increased by just 1.2 percent last year, operating profit was up 12 percent. Calling Gilman "much more of a management-oriented executive," Morton said: "It was inevitable that this was going to happen at some time. The Taylors sold it. It was not a lifetime sinecure by any means."
Still, longtime staffers were particularly disappointed. "I'm one of those people who's worked for three generations of Taylors," Goodman said. "I've been very proud of the people I worked for, even when I've had my disagreements with one or another." She said she had never heard of Gilman until yesterday.
Another staffer offered a cooler assessment, saying: "At times the family has been too paternalistic. The bottom line is the New York Times Company did not consider Ben Taylor to be enough of a businessman." But, this person said, "it ain't our newspaper anymore."
The Globe was hit by considerable turmoil last year. Storin accepted the resignation of a black columnist, Patricia Smith, for fabrications. He changed his mind about axing a white columnist, Mike Barnicle, over some recycled jokes, then fired him for another incident of sloppy journalism. The dual episodes provoked racial tensions at the paper and sparked talk about whether Storin would survive.
Gilman began his career as a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star and rose to assistant managing editor. At the Times he has overseen circulation, technology and the switch to color printing. He has one New England connection -- a master's from Harvard Business School.
Taylor, whose late father served as the Globe's president, said he would stay on as chairman of the board for an "appropriate period" to help with the transition. He is the fifth family member to serve as publisher since 1873, when Gen. Charles H. Taylor took the helm a year after the paper's founding.
Until yesterday, the Taylor family had operational control of the Boston Globe since 1873.
1872: Boston Globe is founded by six Boston businessmen.
1873: The Globe hires 27-year-old Gen. Charles Taylor as a temporary business manager; he later becomes a partner in the paper.
1921: Gen. Taylor dies and is succeeded by his son, William O. Taylor.
1955: William O. Taylor's son, William Davis Taylor, becomes publisher.
1977: William Davis Taylor's son, William O. Taylor, becomes publisher.
1997: Benjamin B. Taylor, a cousin of William O. Taylor and a great-grandson of Gen. Taylor, becomes publisher.
Yesterday: BenjaminTaylor is fired and Richard H. Gilman is appointed publisher, ending the reign of the Taylors.
Daily circulation of the Globe is down since the Times bought it in 1993.
1997: 469,000 (Down 7 percent)
1997: 730,000 (Down 10 percent)
SOURCE: Audit Bureau of Circulation
CAPTION: IN: Gilman
CAPTION: OUT: Taylor
CAPTION: Veteran Globe columnist Ellen Goodman said of the Taylors, "I've been very proud of the people I worked for."