Henry hints at Taunton print closure as 'horror' strikes

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Billionaire Boston Globe owner John Henry appears to have flagged the possibility of abandoning the paper's challenged Taunton print site, which suffered more production problems last SuperBowl weekend.

In an email to Don Seiffert, managing editor of Boston Business Journal - which has been following issues originally raised by GXpress - Henry hints that costs at the site need to fall if it is to stay open.

The original plan in moving production from the city centre to Taunton was to reduce costs and attract revenue by printing the rival Boston Herald and local editions of national titles such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. GXpress questioned the concept of the new press design, which is based on elderly Goss Urbanite press units in two and three-high clusters.

Problems with late printing and distribution hit last northern summer, and with them perhaps went hopes the US$75 million print site might pay for itself in three years. Latest problems are reported to again centre around press controls, ink presetting and the automated reelstands, and are the first since the appointment of Dale Carpenter to head operations.

But colourfully, Seiffert says "like zombies in a horror movie", the print problems "just won't die". Henry says the facility has the capacity to print "everyone in New England" but has struggled to produce newspapers at a reasonable cost. He cites "waste and exorbitant costs both on the production side, where we spend triple the industry average to print and produce a newspaper".

Now he has flagged the possibility of abandoning the Taunton project, telling the Boston Business Journal that if the plant cannot be the "consolidator of choice in the region", changes must follow and the paper will "probably... end up being printed where costs are reasonable".

Problems within the business are apparently not limited to production, with eight top executives reported to have left in recent months, although Henry has declared his confidence in those that remain, among them his wife Linda Pizzuti Henry who is managing director.

After the SuperBowl weekend failures a company spokesperson assured readers who received late papers or none at all that the company was "making adjustments" to prevent this from happening again.

Meanwhile, print customer the Boston Herald is in bankruptcy with Digital First Media's MediaNews Group and GateHouse Media among those understood to be bidding for it, and a bankruptcy auction set for today.

Peter Coleman

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