On the day that could have been its last, the Daily News Friday pursued old advertisers and looked toward next week and its first edition under a new owner, British publisher Robert Maxwell.

The Ides of March was the threatened shutdown date set by the Tribune Co. of Chicago unless a sale or labor settlement were reached.On the day before that deadline, after a bargaining marathon that ended Tuesday with the tabloid's striking unions, Maxwell signed definitive purchase papers in private with officials of the Tribune Co.

Maxwell later held a jubilant news conference at the Daily News Building on 42nd Street, where he was joined by current News publisher James Hoge, Charles Brumbeck, chief executive officer of the Tribune Co. , and Mayor David Dinkins.

"This is an important victory for our city and our people," Dinkins said.

Expressing optimism about the News' future, the British publishing baron reported that he and Hoge already had canvassed former advertisers and several of the largest, including Macy's and Alexander's department stores, have "assured us of their return."

While he seeks to restore depleted advertising income for the once-largest circulation daily in the country, members of all 10 News unions must accept contracts that include about 800 job cuts from their ranks of 2,600.