A few weeks ago, John A. Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the grocery chain Gristedes, met Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the owner of The Daily News in New York, for lunch at Casa Lever, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
The topic for discussion, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting who was not authorized to speak publicly about it: Mr. Catsimatidis was interested in buying the newspaper.
It is not clear whether Mr. Catsimatidis’s approach prompted Mr. Zuckerman to inform his staff last week that he had retained the financial advisers Lazard to explore a sale of The News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that, like many of its peers, is struggling to adjust to a new media landscape.
Owner of New York’s Daily News, Mortimer Zuckerman, Weighs Selling ItFEB. 26, 2015
The New York Post reported on Monday that the suitor that set off the announcement might have been James L. Dolan, the owner of Newsday and the New York Knicks, who was recently criticized for sending a scathing email to a fan who had complained about the team. The Post later also reported that Mr. Catsimatidis was a suitor.
A representative for Mr. Dolan declined to comment. But reached by phone Monday, Mr. Catsimatidis did not deny his interest. Asked if he was the suitor, he said, “There might be more than one, who knows?” He added that he thinks “it’s a great asset to New York, it deserves to live, but it’s a long way between today and Tipperary.”
Asked what might get him to Tipperary, he said “that it loses less money.” Asked, finally, whether that meant that he was in fact seeking to buy the paper, he said: “I can’t comment on it. I am under a confidentiality agreement.”
The News, like many papers, has struggled in the face of big declines in advertising and newsstand sales. Its circulation, once well over a million, fell to 427,452 on weekdays and 558,057 on Sundays for the six months ending last September, the most recent figures available, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Martin Dunn, a former editor of The News, said Mr. Catsimatidis “has always had a great interest in New York politics and in the city as a whole.”
“I met him many times when I was editor in chief,” Mr. Dunn continued, “and he is a very nice guy.”
On the prospect that Mr. Catsimatidis might be the new owner, Mr. Dunn said, “There probably won’t be any raises for the staff, but there might be a two-for-one special on pasta sauce.”
A spokesman for The News declined to comment on Monday.