Sources tell Fortune's Richard Siklos that the one-time Hollywood mogul offered to buy a 19 percent stake in the NYT Co. held by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, but no deal was struck. Apparently the two sides couldn't agree on price, according to The Wrap (Harbinger sought a premium on top of what Geffen was ready to offer). The Fortune piece also says that Scott Galloway, one of two Harbinger board members, made an overture to Google co-founder Larry Page about Google buying the paper. Google decided to pass. From the Fortune piece:
The Times Co. is grappling with two chief problems, one financial, the other more esoteric. The first is too much debt and the results of a litany of questionable corporate moves and missed opportunities over the last decade or so that have been well catalogued before. The steps the Times has taken since the beginning of the year - selling much of its two-year-old headquarters, borrowing $250 million on steep terms from billionaire Carlos Slim, threatening to close The Boston Globe, putting its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale, and so on - are intended to keep the company solvent. The company lost $74 million last quarter and if it lost roughly another $600 million between now and 2011 (not counting special charges) it would face default on its chief line of credit, according to John Puchalla of Moody's.
More broadly, the company suffers from a kind of genetic disorder stemming from the high-minded public goals of the Ochs-Sulzberger trust - whose chief mandate is to protect the editorial independence of the Times - and the demands of running a public company, which the Times became 41 years ago. While the Sulzberger ownership has not yielded corporate brilliance of late, it has done some prescient things with the core brand in recent years, including building the most popular online newspaper Web site and emphasizing national advertising - rather than disappearing print classified ads - as the paper's biggest source of revenue. The Times and associated publications including the International Herald Tribune account for around two thirds of the company's $2.9 billion in annual revenue, with The Boston Globe and other New England properties, regional papers in Florida and the Web site about.com accounting for the rest.
Perhaps Geffen has given up on going after the LAT.