Barclays Back in Hollinger Auction As Bid Deadline Passes

24 March 2004

Hollinger International [H-Intl] has reportedly received more than a dozen bids for its assets -- among them an offer from Britain's billionaire Barclay twins.

The deadline for preliminary bids was 5pm Tuesday, and early reports suggest strong interest in the ailing media group's newspapers, which include Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post. However, it is thought nobody bid for the group as a whole.

One of Hollinger's most attractive assets is UK unit Telegraph Group, and this is the business now being pursued by the Barclays.

The reclusive brothers had previously tried to take control of H-Intl by the back door, agreeing to buy parent company Hollinger Inc from Lord Conrad Black. But with that deal blocked by a US court, the brothers have decided to focus on Telegraph Group.

Their bid was described by one source as "competitive", suggesting a value of around £600 million ($1.1 billion; €901m) -- more than double the £256m they would have paid for the whole of H-Intl under their deal with Black.

However, the Barclays face competition from UK newspaper firms Daily Mail & General Trust and Express Group, both of which are thought to have limited their bids to Telegraph Group.

Other reported participants in the auction are US media groups Gannett and Tribune; Canada's CanWest Global Communications; German newspaper giant Axel Springer; American billionaire Haim Saban; and investment firms Carlyle Group, Providence Equity Partners, 3i, Apax Partners and Cinven.

H-Intl and its advisor Lazard plan to spend the next two weeks studying the bids before drawing up a shortlist.

• Separately, Telegraph Group ceo Dan Colson confirmed his resignation. He will be replaced by the unit's former managing director Jeremy Deedes, who will service as deputy chairman and ceo until the business's ownership is settled.

Colson, who plans to remain on the board of H-Intl, is said to be in line for $3m of stock options when he leaves.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff