CANADIAN publisher Conrad Black has received the blessing of the New York Daily News's management to buy the troubled newspaper, provided he can win over its unions.
The News filed a reorganization plan Aug. 17 in United States Bankruptcy Court naming Mr. Black as the tabloid's future owner. The deal requires him to pay $75 million for the paper's debts, some capital improvements, severance packages and other employee expenses, and commits him to building a $200 million color printing plant.
But the agreement is void unless Black can reach agreements with 10 unions representing about 1,800 workers. Union leaders have been divided between Black and his main rival for the Daily News, US News & World Report publisher Mortimer Zuckerman.
"There's a lot of work that has to be done," News publisher James Willse said of the deal. "It does not preclude a better, later offer from emerging. But as of now this is the best offer."
Mr. Zuckerman's lawyer objected to the reorganization plan, and Judge Tina Brozman gave Zuckerman permission to keep negotiating with the unions despite management's preference for Black.
Of the three most powerful unions, the Newspaper Guild, which represents editorial employees, favors Black; the pressmen favor Zuckerman; and the drivers originally preferred Zuckerman but have made progress in talks with Black.
Judge Brozman scheduled a series of hearings on the reorganization, including a Sept. 8 deadline for a binding agreement with Black.
"It's hoped that Black would have the requisite contracts under his belt by then," said News lawyer Marc Kirschner.
Black's holdings include 102 daily papers on four continents, including the London Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Daily News was owned previously by British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. He purchased it from the Tribune Company in 1991, ending a bitter strike that nearly pushed it over the edge. But the paper filed for bankruptcy protection in December as Mr. Maxwell's empire collapsed after his death at sea.