Telegraph Sale Finally Wraps Up as Ofcom Gives All Clear

12 August 2004

One of the most expensive and fraught takeover deals of a UK newspaper, the Telegraph Group, has been given the all clear by media regulator Ofcom.

According to The Times newspaper, Ofcom has decided that the £665 million ($1.2bn; €994m) takeover by the reclusive Barclay twins does not warrant intervention by trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The 2003 Communications Act introduced a new 'public interest' test designed to ensure new owners of a broadcaster or newspaper are good employers, who do not interfere in editorial decisions and uphold fair and accurate news presentation.

As the first takeover conducted since the rules came into effect, the Telegraph acquisition could have been subjected to the Ofcom test. Ofcom is reportedly 'relieved not to be examining the takeover', deeming it to be a political minefield.

Not that the brothers were likely to fail such a test. Despite their numerous acquisitions, including The Scotsman and The Business newspapers, retail chain Littlewoods and London's Ritz Hotel, they are seen as unassuming proprietors with a hands-off style of management.

They are also unlikely to face competition issues over their ownership of The Scotsman and The Business, which between them command a minuscule share of the UK newspaper market.

In the unlikely event that Hewitt chooses to intervene, she has ten days to do so after Ofcom's findings are reported to the Office of Fair Trading.

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