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Chinese mogul invites homeless Americans to NYC Central Park lunch

Source: Reuters - Thu, 19 Jun 2014 23:26 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds comment from homeless shelter, details on other lunches)

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK, June 19 (Reuters) - A Chinese recycling tycoon who has been angling to buy the New York Times Co aims to throw feasts for 1,000 homeless Americans, starting with a lunch for 250 in New York City's Central Park next week, where he also plans to perform a song.

Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in the recycling business before becoming a well-known philanthropist in China, took out advertisements in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on Monday inviting "poor and destitute Americans" to the lunch at the park's Loeb Boathouse.

During the lunch set for next Wednesday, Chen has promised to sing "We Are the World," a 1985 charity hit song performed by dozens of stars, to his guests in English.

"I want to spread the message in the U.S. that there are good philanthropists in China and not all are crazy spenders on luxury goods," Chen was quoted as saying in an interview about the lunch with the South China Morning Post.

Staff at the Loeb Boathouse, near the park's famous angel-topped Bethesda Fountain, said they do not comment on their guests' events.

Chen's guests at the lunch will be drawn from the homeless clientele of the New York City Rescue Mission, according to Michelle Tolson, the public relations director of the 142-year-old shelter in Manhattan.

Chen first contacted the shelter in May, and he and the shelter have been delicately negotiating the best way to accept Chen's offer in a way that does not "jeopardize our guests' integrity", Tolson said.

"I don't want him to use our guests for publicity," she added. "I think he's coming from a good place in his heart."

Chen's advertisement had promised to give each of his guests $300 in cash, but Tolson said the shelter had since convinced him that was not the best way of helping the shelter's many users who struggle with addictions to drugs or alcohol.

She said the shelter staff would meet with Chen for the first time on Sunday or Monday, and hoped they would be able to give the shelter's users "an experience they have never had or not had in a long time."

Tolson said Chen plans to feed a total of 1,000 poor Americans over four lunches. The details of the other three lunches have not been finalised, she said. Chen could not be reached for comment.

Chen's quest to buy the New York Times from the Ochs-Sulzberger family, which has owned the paper for generations, is widely seen as quixotic. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Ken Wills)

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