Not just any Republican either, but Glen Taylor — the current owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a man who served in the state Senate for eight years. Taylor made a formal offer that the Minneapolis daily’s management accepted, and now has sixty days to put together an investor team to raise the capital, assuming he needs to do so at all. It would take the Strib private, and perhaps have some impact on its progressive pitch, although for the moment everyone is taking care to deny that:
Minnesota billionaire Glen Taylor has made a formal offer to acquire the Star Tribune, a purchase that would add the state’s largest media company to his diverse business empire.
Taylor said in an interview Tuesday that he has made a cash offer as an individual without any other investors. He declined to say how much he would pay, but he emphasized that the Star Tribune is the only media company he is pursuing.
“I’m interested in this one because it’s a Minnesota paper,” Taylor said. “For the long run, if we can continue to have a news media that’s consistent, fair, broad-based … I think it’s in the interest of our state. I would be proud to be part of that.”
Taylor says he has no interest in expanding further than the Star Tribune. He’s not looking to build a media empire, but he apparently wants his own media outlet in his backyard. Why? For the moment, Taylor dismisses talk of changing direction at the paper:
One employee, Mike Orth, said he’s excited about the possibility of Taylor’s ownership.
“It’s going to be a great place for us to work with that ownership,” he said.
Other employees, who didn’t want to be identified, said they are cautiously optimistic and glad that it’s a local guy as opposed to a large newspaper chain based out of town.
Taylor said he will not serve on the board or take an active role in the paper’s day-to-day management.
Strib staff worried that the paper would get bought by a big conglomerate interested in profitability through economies of scale. Taylor’s purchase would prevent that, but again that leaves the question of motive. The paper supposedly returned to profitability after it emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy, but the industry isn’t exactly a high-growth investment area — and this will take at least a few hundred million dollars out of Taylor’s pocket. The return on investment seems pretty low for a business motive, even if the Strib is somewhat profitable — and its recent land sale for a Vikings stadium takes one attractive asset out of the mix already.
How Republican is Taylor? As mentioned before, he’s a former GOP state Senator, from 1981-1990. More recently, though, he’s been a consistent if not overly remarkable donor to the state party and to its candidates. He’s kicked in $30,000 over the last three cycles to the state’s dysfunctional Republican Party, and has maxed out for candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Randy Demmer, and Erik Paulsen (not to the max for Paulsen). Taylor also contributed $10,000 to Tim Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC. In other words, Taylor may not be totally political, but don’t expect him to spend all of this money just to pass on using his voice in the local/state media arena.
We seem to be returning to the old-school newspaper model of wealthy ownership, where profit mattered less than having an outlet for views and influence. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post not long ago, and now Taylor may get the Strib at a bargain. We’ll see how that influences the editorial voice of these papers. In the Twin Cities, we can at least hope for some improvement — although to be fair, the local and state reporting is usually reliable.