Chinese recycling mogul Chen Guangbiao said Wednesday he will fly to New York City on Friday to push his efforts to acquire the New York Times (NYT).
Chen said in an interview with the Global Times Wednesday via telephone that he is serious about wanting to buy the New York Times, something he claimed he had been contemplating for nearly two years.
Chen had announced Tuesday that he wants to buy the US newspaper, which Reuters reported on with the headline "Chinese recycling tycoon says he wants to buy the New York Times."
Chen is somewhat of a celebrity in China, being well-known for his philanthropy and bombastic self-promotion.
Chen said the takeover of this newspaper could help "present an authentic China" to the world as well as push his ideals of "environmental protection, philanthropy and peace on Earth."
A New York firm that specializes in merger and acquisition will be appointed as his sole agent, taking full responsibility for the takeover, according to Chen, who refused to reveal more details about the company.
"I will first meet with the agency on Friday and then have dinner with a middle-level leader from the NYT on Sunday."
"As a matter of policy we do not comment [on] rumor or speculation," NYT spokesperson Eileen Murphy said in an e-mailed reply to the Global Times Wednesday.
"Our chairman, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. has said very recently that The Times is not for sale."
The NYT has been owned by the Ochs-Sulzberger family for more than 100 years.
But Chen remarked that there is nothing that cannot be bought at a right price, offering $1 billion for the deal. On Tuesday, the NYSE-listed newspaper is worth $2.38 billion or $15.87 per share.
"The price is not fixed and can be negotiated. And I will not hesitate to sell my personal assets so as to finish this deal," he noted, believing the publisher will change his mind due to Chen's "sincere acts."
Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute put Chen's wealth at 5 billion yuan ($826 million) in 2013, amassed through his recycling company Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources.
The company does not have much experience in overseas purchases and has been suffering losses for six years since 2004, Beijing-based China Business Journal reported in 2011, citing information from Jiangsu Provincial Administration for Industry and Commerce.
The latest financial information about the operation of his company, which is unlisted, is not available to the public on the company website. However, the website features a lot of information about Chen's charity work.
In order to obtain enough capital for the deal, Chen has been trying to find partners in the past two years. After talks with nearly 27 wealthy mainland individuals ended in vain, he said he finally got support from a Hong Kong real estate tycoon who pledged to put in $600 million.
The Hong Kong partner will also send delegates to accompany Chen to New York on Friday, said Chen.
Chen aims to buy the whole newspaper. If fails, he claimed that he would try to become the controlling shareholder or simply settle for buying a stake.
"Other influential media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, CNN or the Washington Post, would also become my options, if the offer for NYT fails," he noted.
It is a good time to buy major US newspapers now as the global traditional publishing sector has been suffering amid the booming Internet technology, Xiao Mingchao, a Beijing-based independent industry analyst, told the Global Times Wednesday.
"The NYT publisher may expect to receive investment, but is unlikely to sell the company which is doing a fairly good job during the transformation from paper to digital media," said Xiao, suggesting that Chen may get a stake in the NYT but it will not be big enough to assure him a controlling position.
Xiao said that Chen's move is more like self-promotion, as there is no strong business connection between Chen's recycling operation and the publishing industry.