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Murdoch shows interest in buying back New York Post: News Corp chairman discusses waiver of media cross-ownership rules with politicians

RUPERT MURDOCH, chairman of News Corporation, has added to the chaos surrounding the future of the New York Post, telephoning prominent US politicians to discuss the possibility of repurchasing the tabloid he was forced to sell in 1988.

Mr Murdoch, who acquired a New York City television station when he bought what is now the Fox TV network in 1986, was obliged to sell the Post because of US laws that forbid cross-ownership of media within a single city. But with the Post about to close and its owners and editors engaged in death-throe theatrics, Mr Murdoch - who lost more than dollars 150m ( pounds 101m) on the Post in the decade he owned it - has apparently lined up political support for a waiver of the rules and a possible bid.

Aides to New York Governor Mario Cuomo confirmed that Mr Murdoch had called him about the paper, which filed for bankruptcy last week after the collapse of negotiations to sell it. Three influential US senators - two of whom opposed Mr Murdoch's attempt to secure a similar waiver in 1988 - also said they would not stand in the way of a repurchase, now that it appeared that the man who controls the Post was likely to shut it down.

News Corp refused to comment yesterday on Mr Murdoch's telephone calls. But several large shareholders and financial analysts expressed surprise that Mr Murdoch would be interested in buying a loss- making newspaper when the rest of his media empire has only recently emerged from a difficult restructuring.

'It's not at all clear whether Mr Murdoch's creditors would allow any acquisition at this time, let alone one that he's has already lost money on once before,' said one Wall Street analyst.

A New York bankruptcy court judge last week awarded control of the Post to local property developer Abe Hirschfeld, who immediately tried to sack a third of its staff, including all of its managers, prompting speculation that he plans to fold the Post and develop the tract of riverfront land that its offices currently occupy.

The newspaper failed to appear last Monday, and the next day emerged with a special issue attacking Mr Hirschfeld.

Before Mr Hirschfeld officially becomes the publisher, however, his bid must be approved by the newspaper's creditors, which include a printing operation owned by Mr Murdoch. A meeting of Post creditors is scheduled for 2 April.

The staff expressed delight at Mr Murdoch's interest yesterday, welcoming the return of a newspaperman who could offer financial stability.