With Donald Trump, you can never tell where the TV show ends and reality begins. Is he serious about buying the New York Times?
In a brief interview this afternoon, Trump said he wouldn’t comment on his intentions or strategy, deferring to a spokesman who said that Trump’s posture toward the Times was in the “evaluation stage.” But Trump appears to have done a modicum of homework on the finances of the Times, recounting the paper’s unsuccessful business investments of the past decade.
“They buy the Boston Globe for a billion-two,” said Trump. “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.”
“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, whose usual focus is distressed real-estate opportunities (and reality TV), also recalled the sale of the Times’ former headquarters in 2004, a building on “West whatever” that he called a “cathedral” to journalism:
“They sold that building for $175 million and a group I know flipped it for $500 million a short time later — and that’s what’s happening.”
Is he aware that the Sulzberger family, which controls the Times through a special voting class of stock, was an almost insurmountable barrier for any buyer, especially Donald Trump?
“I don’t think the family is getting along too well, as you know,” he said. “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?”*
Almost nobody thinks Trump is serious about this — not least Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who laughed out loud when asked about it in Davos by Wall Street Journal reporter Dennis K. Berman. What we do know is that Trump takes himself seriously. Maybe.
“I do things because I’m a serious person,” he said.