John M. Shaheen, 70, a longtime independent oil man and former Republican activist who had once tried to start a New York financial daily newspaper, died Nov. 1 at a hospital in New York. He had cancer.

Since 1968, he had been president of the Macmillan Ring-Free Oil Co. of New York City. His other companies over the years had included Shaheen Natural Resources and Octane Oil Co. In the early 1970s, he had built the financially troubled Come-By-Chance oil refinery in Newfoundland.

Mr. Shaheen had served on the National Petroleum Council and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information. He had been a legal client of and supporter of former president Richard M. Nixon. He also had served Nixon as a special ambassador to Colombia.

In the 1970s, he received publicity for his attempt to start an afternoon daily that was to devote about half its news space to business and financial information. He expressed the belief that great industry advances in computer technology would enable the paper to print stories that were more timely, such as final stock quotations. Computer automation would also result in a smaller, cheaper, labor force.

After investing an estimated $10 million in the venture, he was forced to postpone it indefinitely after the bankruptcy of his Newfoundland oil refinery.

Mr. Shaheen was a native of Illinois and began working in the oil business at an early age. During World War II, he served in the Navy and the Office of Strategic Services. He attained the rank of captain and earned the Silver Star Medal and the Legion of Merit.

He also had been president of the old Tele-Trip Co., an insurance concern that he sold to Mutual of Omaha. Tele-Trip pioneered the sale of flight insurance at airports.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara, three sons, Tracy, Michael, and Bradford, and a sister, Ruth Downes, all of New York City, and a brother, Raymond, of Chicago.