Murdoch set to bid for New York Post: Paper's future depends on Manhattan court

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH will make an offer, probably today, to retake control of the New York Post, provided a Manhattan court clears the way for new bids for the bankrupt tabloid newspaper.

A source close to News Corporation said yesterday that Mr Murdoch was now confident he would receive a waiver of the US law that obliged him to sell the Post in 1988. But before News Corp could bid for the paper, the tabloid's creditors - who are unhappy with the designated buyer, Abe Hirschfeld - will have to convince the court to appoint a trustee to reopen the sale.

The creditors were scheduled to meet late yesterday, and planned to appeal later to Bankruptcy Judge Francis Conrad to name a trustee to oversee the Post.

'This is a work in progress,' the official said. 'I don't think anybody will know what will happen right up until the last minute.'

News Corp lost dollars 150m on the tabloid during its 12 years of ownership, and there is little prospect it will make any money in the competitive New York market. But its continuing losses, estimated at between dollars 5m and dollars 10m a year, are a drop in the ocean for an empire that generates dollars 1.5bn a year in cashflow, and Mr Murdoch is said to have his own personal reasons for repurchasing the paper.

'Rupert loves newspapers,' the official said. 'He didn't sell the Post because he wanted to run away from New York.'

Under the terms of its 1988 sale of the Post, News Corp remains liable for about dollars 2m worth of employee pensions until May of this year, but this sum does not appear to be a factor in Mr Murdoch's interest in the newspaper. His biggest concern - apparently satisfied by assurances from leaders of both houses of the US Congress - was winning political support for a waiver that would allow him to own both the Post and a local television station affiliated to News Corp's Fox Broadcasting network.

Michael Connery, a lawyer representing the Post employees, said Mr Murdoch indicated to him that once he is assured of the waiver, everything will fall into place pretty fast.

Mr Hirschfeld, a controversial Manhattan property developer, has stopped paying all but the tabloid's unionised reporters and editors, and has threatened to fire the paper's managers when he takes formal control a week from today. Many creditors fear Mr Hirschfeld plans to close down the Post and develop the tract of river-front land its offices occupy.

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