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Chinese tycoon admits New York Times bid faces obstacles

Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao arrives at a news conference to announce his underwriting for the full surgical regimen of mother and
Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao arrives at a news conference to announce his underwriting for the full surgical regimen of mother and

By Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chinese recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao dialed back his ambitious plans to buy The New York Times Co just over a week after making his intentions public.

"The level of difficulty is great," he said through a translator on Tuesday.

Chen, known for his flashy philanthropy, does not hold shares in the Times, nor does he plan to buy any of its common shares, he said, noting that the Times rebuffed a request for a meeting.

The company, which publishes the namesake newspaper, has a market value of $2.3 billion. Chen, who has been mulling a bid for the prestigious newspaper for the past two years, said last week he thinks it is worth $1 billion.

The Ochs-Sulzberger family, which has owned the Times for more than 100 years, controls the company through a trust of Class B shares with special voting rights.

He penned a column in The Global Times on January 5 asking readers not to take his intention of buying the paper as a trick or joke.

Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has said recently the Times is not for sale. A New York Times spokeswoman declined to comment on Chen.

Chen, whose private business is tearing down buildings and bridges, said in an interview on Tuesday that he still covets the newspaper but hopes to find an American entrepreneur to partner with to make the purchase.

The interview followed an hour-long news conference in New York in which Chen tackled topics from his desire to help demolish the old San Francisco Bay Bridge to protests by the Falun Gong movement.

Dressed in a dark suit, blue and gold striped tie, wearing makeup for the cameras, Chen performed a song he wrote about world peace after his opening remarks.

The majority of the conference focused on two Chinese women, a mother and daughter, who are disfigured from a 2001 self-immolation incident in Tiananmen Square. Chen brought the women, Hao Huijun and Chen Guo, to New York to pay for medical procedures.

That Tiananmen Square incident is a flash point in China involving protests by members of Falun Gong, a practice banned in China since 1999 because the country deemed it a cult.

Falun Gong's press office has vehemently denied any connection with the self-immolation incident, saying the Chinese government orchestrated it as a pretext for cracking down on practitioners of the banned spiritual group.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York, additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing; Editing by Richard Chang)

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