Black signs provisional deal for 'Daily News'

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CONRAD BLACK, the Canadian publisher of the Daily Telegraph, signed an agreement in principle yesterday to buy the New York Daily News from the estate of the late Robert Maxwell, but a final deal is still at least two months off.

The tabloid has been operating in bankruptcy since the death of Mr Maxwell last year, and the dollars 22m (pounds 11.7m) Mr Black will pay for the Daily News is owed to its creditors. The final purchase price could rise to dollars 75m, including retirement incentives that would reduce the newspaper's 1,800-strong workforce by one third, and the assumption of dollars 8m in Maxwell Newspapers debt.

Mr Black has also promised to build a new printing plant for the newspaper at a cost of between dollars 200m and dollars 225m.

The bid by Mr Black's Hollinger was recommended over rival offers by the newspaper's directors, but it has failed to win the approval of its pressmen's union, which is resisting concessions sought as part of the deal.

Bankruptcy Judge Tina Brozman has threatened to impose a deal if the parties are unable to reach a consensus.

But the tabloid's employees are among the newspaper's largest creditors, and the unions filed legal challenges to Mr Black's bid in bankruptcy court yesterday. Under normal circumstances, there is a 60-day delay between interim acceptance of a bid and final approval by the bankruptcy court, and either party can abandon the deal at any time.

A lawyer for the pressmen's union said the deal is 'meaningless' because it does not include agreement on the terms of a new labour contract.

Mortimer Zuckerman, whose rival offer was dismissed yesterday, has not abandoned his attempt to buy the newspaper.