Eccentric Chinese Millionaire Says He's Prepping Bid for 'The New York Times' (Report)

4:17 AM PST 01/02/2014 by Patrick Brzeski
AP
Chen Guangbiao

Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in China from waste management, says he's set up a meeting with top "Times" reps in New York next week.

Chen Guangbiao, a wealthy Chinese businessman who made his fortune in waste management, claims he is mulling a bid to take a controlling stake in The New York Times.

A well-known philanthropist and colorful self-promoter in China, Chen dropped hints about his ambitions during a speech in the country's south on Monday, after which shares in the Times company climbed more than 4 percent to a five-year high.

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Chen gave an interview to the Times itself Tuesday, saying he is working with two businessmen, one a Hong Kong tycoon, to raise about $1 billion to acquire a significant portion of the company, which is currently valued at $2.4 billion.

Further outlining his ambitions, 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."

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

Chen said he has arranged a meeting with top Times brass next week in New York.

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, told the paper's reporters: "We have no information about any such meeting."

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Chen, whose fortune is estimated at $825 million by Chinese wealth publisher Hurun Report, has a history of activity that blends good deeds with wacky publicity stunts.

In 2008, he made a great show of handing out cash to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Last year, after violent anti-Japanese protests swept Chinese cities, Chen spent over $800,000 buying Chinese-made cars for those whose Japanese models were vandalized by mobs. And when smog levels spiked in Beijing last January, Chen took to the streets -- with cameras in tow -- handing out canned bottles of "fresh air."

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher of The New York Times, said in 2013 that his family, which controls the paper, has no interest in selling it.

Advised of this fact, Chen told Reuters, "There's nothing that can't be bought for the right price!"  

Not that the Times hasn't occasionally been open to the largess of foreign suitors: In 2009, Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest individuals, loaned the company $250 million "to help the newspaper company finance its businesses," the Times reported. In 2011, his stake was estimated at 8.1 percent. 

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