Hollinger Counts Bids for Britain's Telegraph

16 February 2004

At least five groups are now vying for control of Britain's bestselling broadsheet the Daily Telegraph.

Beleaguered media empire Hollinger International is said to have received bids as high as £500 million ($945m; €738m) for the paper, its Sunday sibling and The Spectator magazine, which between them make up the Telegraph Group.

The deadline for offers closed late last week, and reports suggest early bidder Richard Desmond (owner of Express Newspapers) faces competition from rival UK publisher Daily Mail and General Trust, stockbroker Collins Stewart and two venture capital groups, Apax Partners and Candover Investments.

However, merchant bank Lazards, which is conducting the auction, has so far refused to confirm the final line-up. It is not yet clear whether an offer was made by the Berry family, the former owners of the Telegraph who have expressed an interest in buying it back.

This week the action switches to the US, where a three-day Delaware court hearing will commence Wednesday. At issue is whether Hollinger International's board can proceed with the asset auction, or whether the entire company will be sold over the directors' heads by its controlling shareholder Lord Conrad Black.

Black is currently trying to sell Hollinger Inc, the holding company that controls Hollinger International, to Britain's Barclay brothers for £260m -- a deal that would scupper the Telegraph auction.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff