NEW YORK — A wealthy Chinese businessman who once tried to buy the New York Times offered a free lunch of seared tuna and filet mignon to several hundred homeless New Yorkers on Wednesday at a swank Central Park restaurant.
Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in the recycling business, took out newspaper advertisements last week inviting “poor and destitute Americans” to lunch in the park.
Several hundred people showed up for the lunch, and Chen entertained them by singing “We Are the World,” the 1985 charity hit song to fund African famine relief, and a ceremony in which Chen was presented with a certificate declaring him “the world’s greatest philanthropist.”
He announced to applause and cheers he would hand out $300 to each of the guests and also introduced a self-immolation survivor whose medical treatment he paid for.
“If you have a river [of wealth], you better know how to share it with other people,” Chen said. “We are one big happy family in the world.”
Diners were seated around dozens of round tables covered with white table cloths and set with china and fine cutlery in the banquet room of the Loeb Boathouse, backdrop for such films as “When Harry Met Sally” and television shows including “Sex and the City.”
Standing on the periphery were dozens of Chinese nationals in green uniforms.
Chris Weber, 38, said he heard about the event at the New York City Rescue Mission — a homeless shelter that helped organize the event and where he sometimes receives free dinners. He said he enjoyed the lunch but found it “a little propaganda-y.”
“It’s a nice gesture, but I’m guessing he also has a motive,” he said.
Chen, 46, had tried this year to buy the New York Times, but the Ochs-Sulzberger family, which has owned the newspaper for generations, said it was not for sale.