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Sulzbergers, you’re fired: Could Donald Trump actually buy the New York Times?

The closest international equivalent might be Margaret Thatcher going into business with Fidel Castro.
Donald Trump has reportedly shown an interest in buying the New York Times
© Gage Skidmore

The closest international equivalent might be Margaret Thatcher going into business with Fidel Castro.

But according to US reports, something almost that bizarre is being considered in the New York media world. Donald Trump, outspoken real estate mogul, long-term Republican and star of the US version of TV show The Apprentice, has reportedly shown an interest in buying the New York Times, the left-leaning American daily owned by the Ochs Sulzberger family.

A spokesman for Trump told New York Magazine that the billionaire’s interest was in the "evaluation stage", and Trump himself drew attention to the paper’s erroneous management and investments.

“[The New York Times] buys the Boston Globe for a billion-two,” Trump told the magazine. “Jack Welch and a group offers them $600 million for it and they turned it down, and now they’ll give it away for nothing. For literally nothing.”

He added: “If you look at the unfunded [pension] liabilities at the Times and all the problems they have — if it weren’t the New York Times, you’d say it’s an insurmountable business challenge.”

Trump’s financial critique is not unjustified. The Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim loaned $250 million to the New York Times in 2009, and has continued to make investments since. Recent figures are no more encouraging: the paper posted a $43.7 million loss in the first nine months of 2012.

If Trump really does desire the “insurmountable business challenge” posed by the New York Times, the greatest obstacle in his way is the Ochs Sulzbergers family, the dynasty that has owned the paper since 1896.

The politically liberal family continues to exert control on the paper due to its majority ownership – around 88% – of the company’s class B voting shares. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger is currently the fourth-generation chairman of the board, and looks to be training up his son – who currently writes for the paper – as his successor.

None of which seems to faze Donald Trump, however.

“I don’t think the family is getting along too well, as you know,” he told New York Magazine. “I think there’s a lot of dissension in the family, and how can anyone be happy when you take a once-fabled newspaper and it’s in a state of total destruction?”

Shares in the New York Times were slightly lower in early trading on 23 January, which suggests the alleged Trump bid is not being taken too seriously by investors. But to quote the bullish billionaire himself: “You can’t know it all.” 

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