Google-NYT: The dance continues

By Felix Salmon
May 11, 2009

Back in January, Google’s Eric Schmidt was dismissive when asked about whether he had any interest in buying the New York Times, although he did say he was interested in doing a peculiar thing where he would “merge without merging”, whatever that meant.

In any event, it seems to have meant that when a real opportunity arose, he spent a good deal of time looking at it:

Scott Galloway, a Web entrepreneur and New York University Business School professor who is one of two Harbinger appointees on the Times board, made an overture to Google co-founder Larry Page about Google buying the Times Co. Even though Google CEO Eric Schmidt has publicly lamented the state of the newspaper industry and dismissed the notion of Google investing in it, people involved said the company looked seriously at the opportunity before deciding to pass.

My feeling is that there’s no point in Google talking to Harbinger: unless and until the Sulzberger family has serious interest in talking, it makes essentially no difference who owns the B shares. But at that point, there are all manner of interesting structures which might be created, some of which might well involve Google’s charitable arm, Google.org. Schmidt’s claim that he didn’t want to mix philanthropy with business was always the least convincing part of his claim not to be interested in the NYT.

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