Harvard Book Store gets a new backer: John Henry
John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and owner of the Boston Globe, has chosen to invest in another Boston-area institution. He’s taken on part-ownership of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, which has been in the book business since 1932.
Henry has long had an affinity for independent booksellers, and reached out to current owners Jeff Mayersohn and Linda Seamonson early on in the pandemic when he’d heard they were struggling during the shutdown. At the time, the couple had decided to continue paying their staffers even while the store was closed. And with the revenue gone from their litany of literary events — the store typically hosts over 450 readings a year — they were increasingly worried whether the business would survive. “We had very few months of cash left,” said Mayersohn.
“It was safe to say that we were sort of kindred spirits,” Henry said. “We hit it off right away and started talking about the future of bookstores.” Mayersohn said Henry has been an engaged partner, texting him photos and videos of independent bookstores he’s visited while traveling. And as of this week, Henry has made his first investment in the store. It is an independent investment outside of his other business ventures, and Mayersohn and Henry did not disclose a figure. But both said it would be enough to cover the costs of renovating the store’s decades-old fixtures and updating its website, which — nearly a decade old — currently doesn’t do much to help Harvard Book Store compete with other, larger, online booksellers which will remain unnamed.
Mayersohn also said that Harvard University, which is the bookstore’s landlord, has extended his lease through 2033. And while the focus now is stabilizing the existing store, the plan is to eventually expand beyond Harvard Square.
Henry called owning a bookstore a challenge similar to one he took on when he purchased the Globe, and said he sees both as contributing to the civic good of the city. “We knew [the Globe] was important for the community. It’s the same thing here,” he said. “We didn’t want to see [the bookstore] go away.”
Harvard Book Store Wins Investment from Red Sox Owner
“John Henry and Linda Pizzuti Henry have done extraordinary work through their involvement in so many of Boston’s iconic cultural institutions. We’re very excited about the projects that will be made possible by this partnership, which will ensure Harvard Book Store’s future as an important literary institution for decades to come,” said Mayersohn.
Henry added: “Linda [Pizzuti] and I have long appreciated the role that Harvard Book Store plays in our region’s cultural life. We hope that our involvement will enable Harvard Book Store to build upon this legacy to better serve the readers and writers of Greater Boston and beyond. Our intention is that the store stay indie to its core, as part of the marvelous universe of bookstores that add so much to their communities.”
John William Henry II (born 1949) is an American businessman and investor and the founder of John W. Henry & Company, an investment management firm.
He is the principal owner of Liverpool Football Club, the Boston Red Sox, The Boston Globe, and co-owner of RFK Racing. In March 2006, Boston estimated Henry’s net worth at $1.1 billion but noted that his company had recently experienced difficulties. In November 2012, the company announced that it would stop managing clients’ money by the end of the year, and Henry confirmed that total assets under the firm’s management had fallen from $2.5 billion in 2006 to less than $100 million as of late 2012. As of November 2021, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $3.6 billion.
Following his sale of the Marlins, Henry led a purchase of the Boston Red Sox with partners Tom Werner and the New York Times Company from the Yawkey Trust headed by John Harrington. Henry, as principal owner and Werner, as chairman, assembled a front office team headed up by Larry Lucchino with the express goal of “breaking the Curse of the Bambino.” He also hired baseball sabermetrics pioneer Bill James, whose work became widely known following the publication of Moneyball in 2003. Henry accomplished his championship goal in the 2004 World Series, against his former childhood favorite Cardinals, and beat the Cardinals again in 2013. The team also won the 2007 World Series against a franchise with which Henry had pre-expansion involvement, the Rockies, and the 2018 World Series against the Dodgers. Henry is also responsible for saving Fenway Park from the wrecking ball. The previous Red Sox owners had planned on building a new Fenway Park next door, but Henry chose to keep and renovate (including new seats over the Green Monster) the current Fenway Park, which celebrated its centennial in 2012.
Image courtesy Time Out, moneyinc.com