An eccentric Chinese recycling magnate yesterday said he was preparing to open negotiations to buy New York Times Co.
Chen Guangbiao (陳光標), a well-known philanthropist, is something of a celebrity in China. During a murky bout of pollution last year, the tireless self-promoter handed out free cans of “fresh air.”
Yet Chen says he is serious about his bid to buy the Times, a move he said he has contemplated for more than two years. He said he expected to discuss the matter on Sunday, when he is due to meet a “leading shareholder” in New York.
“There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price,” he said.
It is unlikely that the Times, which has long been controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, would sell to Chen.
Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr said recently that the company was not for sale.
Chen believes the Times is worth US$1 billion, but said he would be willing to negotiate.
If he is unable to buy the firm, Chen said he would settle for being a controlling stakeholder and, failing that, would just buy a stake.
Hurun’s Rich List of China’s super-wealthy put the magnate’s wealth at about US$740 million in 2012. Chen said he would not hesitate to sell off most of his assets if it enabled him to buy the Times.
Chen said his aim was not to push a political agenda, but his ideals of “peace on earth, protecting the environment and philanthropy.”
He attracted attention in August 2012 when he bought a half-page advertisement in the New York Times stating that an island chain at the center of a dispute with Japan belonged to China since antiquity.
“After that, I realized that the Times’ influence all over the world is incredibly vast,” he said.
The paper earned the ire of Beijing with a report about the wealth of former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and its Web site has been blocked in China since then.
Chen said it was natural to block the site because the Wen report “contained biased and negative things that were not verified,” adding: “If I acquire the Times, the paper will only report the truth.”