Barclay Twins in Pole Position for Telegraph Group Race

01 June 2004

Following the departure of German publishing giant Axel Springer from the Telegraph Group bidding war, the secretive Barclay brothers are now frontrunners in the battle for the jewel in the crown of Hollinger International [H-Intl].

H-Intl has set a minimum £600 million ($1.1bn; €900.22m) price tag, which precludes Springer's £550 million offer. Other contenders are the Daily Mail and General Trust, 3i Group and, jointly, venture capitalists Apax Partners and Candover Investments.

H-Intl's corporate review committee met last week in New York to determine which bidders would make it to the second stage of the protracted auctioning process. The highest bidder will remain undisclosed and any statement issued will simply act as an update to proceedings.

Four offers between £600 million and £700 million remain on the table for the media giant's British titles, leaving other assets, including the Chicago Sun-Times and Jerusalem Post, high and dry. Hollinger, however, still hopes it might pull a hydra-headed rabbit from its hat in the shape of a consortium to purchase the group as a whole.

"We'll look at anything that makes sense," said Lord Conrad Black, H-Intl's ousted chairman/ceo (but still its controlling stockholder).

• Meantime, Hollinger Incorporated [H-Inc], the holding company through which Black controls a 73% voting stake in the newspaper empire, has managed to grab a financial lifeline of C$211 million to consolidate its debts.

Through a share sale, approved by minority shareholders in April, the company has finally reduced its cash problems, much to the relief of Black who exhaled: "This is a good move for us. The liquidity crisis is resolved."

• Separately, it was reported that Thomas Rose, publisher of the Jerusalem Post has been sacked from that position by H-Intl.

His abrupt departure is reportedly due to an unauthorized move on Rose's part to formulate an offer for the English-language newspaper which has been valued at around $40 million.

Chief financial officer Mark Ziman will stand in as publisher and chief executive in the short term, although no definite appointment will be confirmed until the paper's long term future is assured.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff