Gov. Rendell suggested last year to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that the billionaire should buy The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, according to an account just published in a national magazine.

In its Aug. 24 issue, the New Yorker said Rendell broached the idea of Bloomberg's owning the newspapers during a July 2008 flight from New Orleans to Minneapolis in the mayor's jet.

"We discussed a few things, and I tried to convince him to come down and buy The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News," Rendell was quoted as saying in the profile of Bloomberg. "I said to him, 'Mayor, only you can save the newspaper business in this country.' And, of course, his staff, they wanted him to buy the New York Times."

Through a spokesman, Rendell yesterday confirmed that he made the suggestion to Bloomberg, but said it was in jest. "He was only kidding," said Gary Tuma, the governor's press secretary.

Stu Loeser, a Bloomberg spokesman, said the mayor did not dispute the account but added that Bloomberg would not have any additional comments.

Rendell, Bloomberg, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled across the country last year as part of the Building America's Future Coalition, which advocated stepped-up investment in public infrastructure.

In the early 1980s, Bloomberg founded Bloomberg News, an international news-gathering organization.

The owner of The Inquirer and Daily News, Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., bought the papers in 2006 and has been in bankruptcy court since February trying to restructure a debt burden.

This was not the first time Rendell had tried to get involved with the future of the papers.

In the spring of 2006, he pushed for prominent Democratic donor Ron Burkle to win a bidding war for them. At that time, the McClatchy Co. had agreed to buy Knight Ridder Inc. and its 32 papers, but planned to sell a dozen, including the ones in Philadelphia. Rendell contacted Kevin McClatchy, a company board member, to advocate the sale of The Inquirer and the Daily News to Burkle and his California-based Yucaipa Cos. L.L.C.

Then, in late 2008, the governor arranged a meeting between Philadelphia Media Holdings chief executive officer Brian P. Tierney and the two largest state employee pension funds in the hope of helping the company lessen its debt. Nothing came from those talks.