By: ANDREW VANACORE
Entertainment billionaire David Geffen approached a hedge fund about buying its 19 percent stake in The New York Times Co., a person knowledgeable about the offer confirmed Tuesday.
The fund, Harbinger Capital Partners, turned down the bid, according to the person familiar with the offer, who was not authorized to release details publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The offer and its rejection by Philip Falcone, who heads Harbinger, was reported earlier by Fortune magazine.
Geffen did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
News of the offer comes as the company and its flagship newspaper face tough questions. The Ochs-Sulzberger family controls the company through its 19 percent stake of supervoting shares. But steep losses ? including $74.5 million in the first quarter ? have fed speculation that Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. could lose control of the company.
Harbinger came close to fighting a proxy battle with the Times Co. last year over management of the company and threatened to nominate Harbinger’s own slate of directors. Instead the Times offered the fund two seats on its board.
Fortune also reported Monday that one of Harbinger’s appointees, Scott Galloway, approached Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page about whether the Internet company might buy the Times.
Galloway, founder of Firebrand Partners LLC, did not immediately return a request for comment.