|Billionaire Chen Guangbiao reveals US$600m Hong Kong link to New York Times bid
Billionaire Chen Guangbiao says he has persuaded a Hong Kong entrepreneur to contribute US$600 million to chase his dream of owning the respected US newspaper the New York Times, which he intends to reform.
Chen said he is serious about buying the newspaper.
He is listed as one of China's 400 richest people and a man known as much for his publicity stunts as his charitable giving, AFP reports.
He wrote an an op-ed in the state-run Global Times newspaper headlined: “I intend to buy The New York Times, please don't take it as a joke.’’
Chen said he is keen to buy the paper and wants to work on “rebuilding its credibility and influence,’’ by reforming its award-winning coverage of China.
“The tradition and style of The New York Times make it very difficult to have objective coverage of China,'' Chen wrote.
“If we could purchase it, its tone might turn around. Therefore I have been involved in discussing acquisition-related matters with like-minded investors.''
The New York Times has published several award-winning reports on China, including a 2012 investigation into the family wealth of then-premier Wen Jiabao that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
The paper's website has been blocked ever since in China, the world's second-biggest economy, and several of its reporters have had difficulty obtaining visas.
Chinese state media and officials often interpret overseas criticism of the ruling Communist Party as an attack on the country itself.
Chen added that if he succeeds he “will conduct some necessary reforms, the ultimate goal of which is to make the paper's reports more authentic and objective, thus rebuilding its credibility and influence.’’
Last Monday, Chen said at an event in Shenzhen that he planned to travel to the US “to go discuss the acquisition'' of the paper, a remark that many dismissed as the wealthy entrepreneur's latest play for attention.
Four days later, Chen was seen by a Chinese Business News reporter at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
A New York Times spokeswoman told a reporter for the newspaper last week that the company had “no information'' about any negotiations with Chen.
Chen built his fortune, estimated at five billion yuan by Chinese wealth publisher the Hurun Report, on the recycling company Huangpu Renewable Resources Utilisation Group.
But he has been derided by critics as a publicity hound who will go to great lengths for attention.
In his op-ed, Chen wrote that he has “persuaded a Hong Kong entrepreneur to contribute US$600 million to this cause'' of buying the paper, whose parent company is listed on Wall Street and has a market capitalization of more than US$2 billion.
“I have said as long as the price is reasonable, there is nothing that cannot be bought,'' he wrote.
He added that he first had the idea of purchasing the newspaper when he placed an advertisement in it in December 2012 asserting Chinese sovereignty over a disputed island group called the Diaoyus by China and the Senkakus by Japan.
``I find Americans know little about a civilized and open China that has been enjoying unprecedented development,'' Chen wrote.