Maine Today Media (MTM) has announced that a majority interest in the company is being acquired by a group of investors headed by Chris Harte, who once was publisher of the Portland Press Herald, the largest of the MTM's three daily newspapers.
Harte's partners in the deal include one Aaron Kushner, owner of a Boston greeting card company who tried unsuccessfully to buy the Boston Globe more than a year ago, and Jack Griffin, a veteran magazine publisher who was hired to run Time Inc. last year and was summarily fired five months later for incompatibility. He didn't get along with his colleagues.
The three are leaders of the investors group called the 2100 Trust which also includes HM Partners, the Texas investment firm that helped MTM's former CEO Rich Connor buy the papers. It's unclear what, if any, role will be played by Peter Brodsky who took over as CEO when Connor abruptly left the company. Indications are he will remain in a key management role.
All that brings us to the important question: How will the new ownership stand politically? The answer does not appear encouraging for conservatives.
Harte, a journalism veteran whose family ran the Harte-Hanks newspaper chain, has most recently been CEO of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the most liberal papers in the country. So liberal, in fact, that its detractors still refer to it as "the Red Star."
But Harte is not quite that scary. He actually adjusted Minnesota paper's course more to the center but his personal political background is Democratic. When he was still in Maine after his PH stint in 1992-94, he contemplated a run against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and donated money to Democrats.
More scary is Aaron Kushner. His donations include $4,600 to Obama, $1,000 to Biden and $2,000 to Howard Dean. Even scarier than Kushner is Peter Brodsky. He has recently donated $2,400 to Sen. Chuck Schumer, $4,800 to Harry Reid, and in 2008 he donated $2,300 to Mrs. Clinton, $2,300 to Obama, $2,100 to John Edwards (Ugh!) and thousands more to lesser Democratic candidates.
If these two characters have any say in MTM's political stance, the many readers who believed the Blethens and Rich Connor were lefties could find out what far-left means.
Their main hope is that Harte will realize that a large share of MTM's readership is conservative and the papers will recognize the wisdom of political diversity.
Perhaps he will if he can.Though he does not broadcast the fact, Hart is known to have been for many years a major investor in the Current chain of Portland-area weeklies. And none of them are exactly Red Stars. Let's hope.