How Mort Zuckerman Beat out Lord Conrad Black
In Richard Sikios' 1995 book Shades of Black he tells a compelling story of how Mort Zuckerman beat out Lord Conrad Black to buy the NY Daily News. Black eventually went on to back the New York Sun.
Lord Black of Crossharbour was always a fan of the New York scene and was after an American flagship. In 1992 he met Barbara Walters at a cocktail party in London. Walters suggested to Lord Black (okay, I just like saying that) that he talk to her investment banker friend John Veronis about buying the troubled Daily News. Lord Black did and things started rolling.
He assessed that the Daily News was overmanned and needed a new printing plant, but, as a businessman, approached it all from the point of view of getting a "a good deal or no deal." Enter Mortimer Zuckerman, an individual not tied to any company or justifications for his purchases.
Zuckerman made his wealth in real estate and wanted "face" in the New Yorkmedia swirl after buying US News and World Report and The Atlantic. Black and Zuckerman initially talked about buying the venture together. David Radler. president of Hollinger, Black's company, told Siklos:
"At one point (Zuckerman) talked, for instance, that we would switch every year who would control the editorial page."
Conversations broke down and a bidding war ensued. Rupert Murdoch weighed in, unsurprisingly, on the side of fellow conservative Lord Black. "I think Conrad would be very good for the News," said Murdoch at the time,"and he'd be better still for the city."
On August 17 Lord Black offered $75 million of Hollinger money and won backing of both the Board of Directors and management of the Daily News. Zuckerman won the drivers and pressmens unions. In the end Zuckerman won because he offered a more positive vision for the company as an individual buyer not linked to a corporation. Lord Black would have had to cut jobs to justify the purchase to investors in Hollinger. C'est tout!