Google Looked At Buying New York Times Stake, Passed

Harbinger Capital, the “activist” investor that bought a 19% stake in the New York Times (NYT) last year only to lose its shirt, is now shopping the stake to anyone who will listen.

In recent weeks, says Fortune’s Richard Siklos, the listeners included Google and David Geffen. 

Geffen actually made an offer–at the prevailing market price–which was apparently too low for Harbinger’s liking. The FT says he’s still interested and is willing to wait Harbinger.

Google, which was presumably looking to neutralize the charge that it’s destroying the newspaper industry, just passed on the deal.

Last month, sources tell me, former Hollywood mogul David Geffen made an offer to buy the 19% stake in the Times held by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, but no deal was struck. (Geffen and Harbinger declined to comment.).

And a few weeks before that, 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 (GOOG, Fortune 500) 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.

Any other takers?

Regardless of who ends up with the Harbinger stake, Carlos Slim looks to be in the best position to end up controlling the company.  Geffen’s interest does probably put a floor on the stock for a while, though.

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