NEW YORK -- Rupert Murdoch may be running the New York Post by Monday morning, thanks to a conference-call putsch that all but ousted publisher Abe Hirschfeld yesterday.
The international media mogul will ask Federal Bankruptcy Court for permission to operate the paper for 60 to 90 days.
lTC Once assured that government regulations will not prohibit his owning both the Post and WNYW-TV in New York City, Mr. Murdoch is expected to repurchase the paper he owned from 1976 to 1988.
"We won what we think is a very important, major, but not complete victory in terms of trying to save the newspaper," said Post editor Pete Hamill, who has been battling Mr. Hirschfeld since the real estate developer took over the paper two weeks ago.
Bankruptcy Judge Francis Conrad ordered Steven Bumbaca, the Post's controller, to immediately take over from Mr. Hirschfeld responsibility for authorizing checks and paying bills.
"He adamantly opposed granting Mr. Bumbaca that authority," said Howard Seife, the attorney for the newspaper's creditors. "He threatened to walk away from the Post entirely, but he did not officially do that."
A 5 p.m. conference call started the ball rolling.
Attorneys for current Post owner Peter Kalikow, Post creditors, Mr. Hirschfeld, Murdoch representatives and Judge Conrad discussed reports that Mr. Hirschfeld had not been paying the Post's bills. Mr. Hirschfeld ran the paper under a management contract from Mr. Kalikow.
Mr. Kalikow wrote to Mr. Hirschfeld and the paper's creditors Wednesday, saying Mr. Hirschfeld had violated the terms of his contract by failing to make the payments necessary to keep the paper operating.
Sources told the Daily News that Mr. Hirschfeld failed to make about $150,000 in Social Security payments for Post employees.
A woman answering the phone at Mr. Hirschfeld's Fifth Avenue apartment last night said he would not comment on the Post until Monday.
After ordering Mr. Bumbaca to take charge of the Post's finances, Judge Conrad said he wanted an outside examiner to look at the paper's books.