Chen Guangbiao, one of China's richest (and oddest) men announced to the world this week that's ready to buy The New York Times. There's one small hitch: The paper isn't actually for sale.
Chen — a recycling magnate who made news earlier this year for giving out free air in China (to combat their notoriously awful pollution) — told Reuters that he's lined up investors and will begin negotiations to buy the most powerful newspaper in the world this week. "There's nothing that can't be bought for the right price," Chen told Reuters. "If we act in sincerity and good faith, I believe the Times chairman will change his way of thinking," he added, explaining that he was headed to the United States on Jan.5 to discuss buying the paper.
The Chairman, of course, is Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., whose family has controlled the Times since the 1800s. He has made it clear on more than one occasion that the paper is not for sale.
With Amazon's Jeff Bezos now commanding a more casual (they don't wear ties there now) Washington Post and grumpy buzzard Rupert Murdoch overseeing his news empire and the likes of The Wall Street Journal, having an eccentric billionaire in control of another major American newspaper would make sense right? They actually did let Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim loan them some money a few years ago, but his investment remains less than 10 percent.
Chen believes that he can purchase The New York Times for around $1 billion— the same amount as Instagram sold for and about four times as much as The Washington Post. Chen himself is reportedly worth between $740 million and $825 million, and says he has a mystery investor who will help him pay for the rest. "He said that because his funds were limited, he had persuaded a Hong Kong tycoon to put in $600 million while he would pay the rest," Reuters reports.
Arthur Sulzberger has previously said that his paper is not for sale. Most recently, Sulzberger reiterated the Times's not-for-sale status after Bezos's surprise acquisition of The Washington Post this past August. A spokesperson for The Times didn't even comment to Reuters about Chen's boast.
Yet, Chen seems undeterred. If his $1 billion ploy isn't enough to get Sulzberger to bite, he plans on meeting with a "leading shareholder." Chen told reporters and the AFP that ""the negotiation is currently underway."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.