Chen, 42, who made millions through his waste management company Huangpu Renewable Resources, says that he is scheduled to have a meeting with a leading Times shareholder on Jan. 5.
The paper’s shares are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger families through a special category of priority voting stock. At current prices the group has a market capitalization of $2.34 billion, which compares with the $1 billion Chen says he is prepared to pay.
The NYT is an interesting target for a Chinese enterprise – the paper’s website is currently blocked in China and its reporters have had extreme difficulty in renewing their press credentials in China. The paper’s latest difficulties in China result from its reporting about the wealth accrued by former China Premier Wen Jiabao’s family.
Chen himself learned of the influence of the Times when he took out a half page advertisement in 2012 proclaiming the legitimacy of China’s claim to islands in the East China Sea which China, Japan and Taiwan all say are theirs.
Chen’s assertion that “there’s nothing that can’t be bought at the right price,” is typical of a prevailing attitude among higher echelons of Chinese society.
But even if Chen were to persuade the Sulzbergers to part with their ‘Class B’ shares U.S. regulatory issues could still upset a Chinese takeover of the Times. Foreign firms are currently unable to take controlling stakes in Chinese media assets and have long struggled to gain financial footholds in Chinese news, film distribution and TV sectors.
Chen, whose personal fortune was estimated at $740 million at the end of 2012, is one of China’s leading philanthropists.