Hollinger Resumes Asset Auction After Delaware Triumph

02 March 2004

The asset auction of Hollinger International [H-Intl] is back on track after the company won its US court battle against Lord Conrad Black.

Lazards, the investment bank handling the sell-off, has announced that the disposal process has been resumed after Judge Leo Strine, Vice Chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery, ruled last week that controlling shareholder Black "persistently and seriously" breached his fiduciary duty [WAMN: 27-Feb-04].

The cash-strapped newspaper group -- whose assets include Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post -- is eager to offload some or all of its portfolio. However, the auction was threatened by a £260 million ($487m; €389m) deal between Black and Britain's secretive Barclay twins.

Under this agreement, the Barclays would have bought parent company Hollinger Inc, which owns just 30% of H-Intl's equity but 73% of its voting rights. The deal would effectively have sold the publisher over the heads of its board.

But with the Barclays sale scuppered by the Delaware court -- on the grounds that this is the only way to protect the company's minority shareholders -- H-Intl is free to pursue its sell-off.

"The auction process is up and running again," declared Lazards. "We are back to where we started."

All eyes are now on the Barclays, who are expected to make their next move once Judge Strine formally blocks their deal with Black (due by Tuesday).

The brothers could join the ongoing auction for H-Intl's UK unit Telegraph Group, bids for which are said to have topped £600m. Or they could make an offer for the whole company, though it would probably cost them upwards of £800m -- a far higher investment than their deal with Black.

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