2:47 pm Jan. 31, 20131
Donald Trump hasn't said much about Joe Hagan's recent scoop that the mogul is angling to buy The New York Times, other than a brief follow-up interview in which Trump allowed a spokesperson to characterize his interest in the paper of record somewhat grandiosely as being in the "evaluation stage." (Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman of the Times Company, laughed out loud when asked about it at a recent World Economic Forum luncheon in Davos.)
But during an interview on Fox Business Network this afternoon, Stuart Varney asked the voluble conservative billionaire outright if there is any truth to the chatter.
"I'm hoping that's true," said Varney. "Is it?"
"Well I think a lot of people are hoping its true," said Trump, before rattling off some of the Times' financial shortcomings of late.
"Well, is it true?," Varney pressed. "Are you looking at it to buy it?"
"Well I look at everything, and if something happens, it happens," said Trump. "But they have the class A, class B stock, which makes it very tough."
Indeed, as Bloomberg's Edmund Lee recently explained, the Times Company's stock-ownership structure is set up in such a way that the paper's future is essentially sealed by a coterie of eight members of the controlling Ochs-Sulzberger family.
"Those eight family members are forbidden from selling the trust’s holdings for the purposes of a merger or acquisition, 'unless they determine that the primary objective of the trust can be achieved better by the sale,' according to company’s filings," Lee wrote. "What’s the primary objective? Journalism, of course."
Which means they'd be loath to sell to someone like Trump—and probably even moreso after his dog-and-pony show on Fox Business this afternoon. Here's more:
"You know a lot of us are just praying that one day, [Times economics columnist Paul] Krugman reports to you," said Varney. "We'd just love to see it."
"That would be a lot of fun," Trump replied. "He might not be reporting for very long."
You can watch the full segment below (the Times talk begins around 3:30):
(Disclosure: I've recently freelanced for the Times.)