The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT) has a new suitor. Chen Guangbiao, a Chinese millionaire who made his money in recycling and is known as an eccentric philanthropist, is apparently prepared to offer $1 billion for the company.
The news is interesting, and strange, for several reasons. First, the Times has a market cap of about $2.4 billion. According to Reuters, Chen said has that, “There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price,” but for the Times, $1 billion is probably not that price.
If it is just a matter of money, though, Chen is still in trouble. Chen is estimated to have a net worth of $740 million, and has reportedly secured $600 million from an unnamed investor in Hong Kong. Even if he could liquidate all of his assets and put the money towards a bid for the Times, that’s just $1.24 billion. Chen said he was willing to negotiate for the company, but it doesn’t look like he has a lot of wiggle room when it comes to his budget.
However, the nail in the coffin might not even be Chen’s financial situation. The Ochs-Sulzberger family, which has owned the Times for more than a century, is unlikely to consider selling the company. Chair Arthur Sulzberger said as much recently. The Ochs-Sulzberger family controls the company through a special class of shares that are separate from the common stock traded on the market. But Chen is undeterred. “If we act in sincerity and good faith, I believe the Times Chair will change his way of thinking,” he said.
Chen began his pursuit of the Times two years ago when he realized that the company owned one of the most respected publications in the world. This point was driven home in a way when China blocked access to the Times’ website following a 2012 report about former Premier Wen Jiabao. For its part, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy has said that the company has no information about any meeting between the company and Chen.