In February 2011, Catherine Ozment profiled Aaron Kushner in Boston Magazine.
Kushner, 39, is CEO of 2100 Trust LLC, the investment group that just bought the Gazette, the Orange County Register and several other newspaperS from Freedom Communications.
When Ozment interviewed Kushner, he was in the process of making an offer to buy the Boston Globe. The piece paints him as a self-assured, persuasive young entrepreneur.
The Gazette published a flowery e-mail from Kushner to the paper’s employees this morning, praising Gazette employees, and expressing optimism about the future. Maybe so – but were I at the Gazette, I’d be just a little worried.
Here are some excerpts from Ozment’s story:
“Kushner is a self-described Boston “newbie” who lives in a $1.7 million house in Wellesley with his wife and three kids. After growing up in Georgia, he attended Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in organizational analysis, and starred on the gymnastics team.”
Kushner put together a deal to buy a greeting card company, Marian Heath, in 2002. He expanded the company by purchasing other companies. Ozment describes the aftermath of one such purchase:
“It was a cold December morning in 2005, the day after Marian Heath had announced its purchase of Renaissance, and the staff of the recently bought company had been told to arrive early for a meeting. Though rumors had been flying that Renaissance might be sold, no one expected what came next.
“When they opened up the door,” says a former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, “we got into a line like cattle, and there were people at the door with clipboards asking us what our name was, and they looked at us and said, ‘Okay, you go upstairs, you go to the cafeteria, you go upstairs, you go to the cafeteria.’ Once we started seeing who was in the room, we were like, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Those people downstairs are going to be let go today.’ And sure enough, that’s what happened. We never got to say goodbye to them.” In all, 34 of 77 employees were dismissed that day.”
Kushner dismissed the story with a Romney-esque flair. He pointed out that many greeting card companies went under, and that Marian Heath did what they had to do to stay in business.
But as far as the newspaper business is concerned, he sang a different tune. He told Ozment that he was ready to invest in the Globe.
“If you want to grow a business,” he told Ozment, “you have to invest in that business; especially when it is at a weak point, you cannot cut your way to growth.”
Kushner’s politics may surprise his new employees, not to mention the residents of our fair city.
Judging from his campaign donations, he falls somewhere in the spectrum between moderate left and moderate right. He donated $4,300 to Barack Obama in 2007, and has also donated to the campaigns of Joe Lieberman, Niki Tsongas and Susan Collins.
Clearly, he thinks that a newspaper’s owner ought to be hands-on – and that includes monitoring the editorial product.
“If you don’t care enough about your product to have an opinion of it,” he asked Ozment,” why are you even in the business?”
So we may be in for an interesting time, as the daily adjusts to its new owner – or maybe not.
It’s possible, even likely, that The Gazette was just a throw-in, that Kushner’s real interest is in the Orange County Register. He may simply flip without fixing, and pawn off the G to Denver Post owner Media News Group, which has always been the logical buyer. Let’s hope not – a Post takeover would mean the effective disappearance of the Gazette.
And Kushner? It’s delicious to think that in this, the most conservative city in America, the three leading newspapers are now controlled by Obama-donating, Gay rights supporting, Democrat-leaning…dare I say the word? Liberals???!!!