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    Jan 02, 2014

    Chinese tycoon wants to buy NYT


    A WEALTHY Chinese businessman and philanthropist known for his zany public stunts said on Tuesday that he was leading a group of investors seeking to acquire a large or controlling stake in The New York Times Co.

    Shares in the Times Co. jumped 4 per cent to a five-year high on Monday, shortly after the businessman, Mr Chen Guangbiao, hinted at his plans in a speech in southern China.

    Mr Arthur Sulzberger Jr, the publisher of The New York Times, said last year that the family that controls the paper is not interested in selling it.

    In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr Chen said he had been thinking about "working with" The New York Times for years. Recently, he said, he had persuaded two businessmen, including a Hong Kong tycoon, to help him raise about US$1 billion (S$1.26 billion) to snap up a large portion of the company, now valued at about US$2.4 billion, based on its stock price.

    "There's nothing that can't be bought for the right price," Mr Chen said.

    Because of the way its shares are structured, the company is controlled largely by a special class of stock, Class B shares, held by descendants of Adolph Ochs, who acquired the paper in 1896. The Class A stock, which is publicly traded, rose about 86 per cent last year.

    Mr Chen, who made a fortune in the recycling business, said he had set up a meeting with Times representatives in New York next week and planned to make his pitch because The New York Times was the world's most influential publication.

    Ms Eileen Murphy, a spokesman for The Times, said: "We have no information about any such meeting."

    In the telephone interview, Mr Chen said: "If I can get this deal with The New York Times, I will be able to bring more positive images and influence to contribute to world peace and make the world a better place."

    He added: "If the deal breaks off, I will keep searching for another credible and influential media company in the US to achieve my goal."

    Although The Times has a news bureau in China, the paper's English- and Chinese-language websites have both been blocked here since late 2012, after The Times published an article about the hidden wealth of the relatives of then Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao.

    Mr Chen said he would work to repair The Times' image in China, and also improve the paper's understanding of the country.

    "My plan for The New York Times if I get the deal will be to put the paper on every newsstand across the country and making The Times accessible to every Chinese household. China is such a big market and is too big to miss," he said.

    Mr Chen, who is estimated to be worth US$800 million, according to the Hurun Rich List, has been praised and ridiculed for his publicity stunts in recent years, which have included handing out cash and "canned fresh air" to raise awareness about charitable giving and the environment.

    The New York Times' recent strong stock performance follows several quarters of positive earnings results and gains in circulation, though it still faces a struggling advertising market.