A Scottish MP is demanding that regulators prevent the secretive billionaire Barclay twins and their publisher henchman, Andrew Neil, acquiring the Glasgow-based Herald and Sunday Herald newspapers from media group SMG.

The titles were put up for sale in September [WAMN: 11-Sep-02], attracting the interest of numerous media and private equity firms. As the bidding deadline closed, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay emerged as front-runners with an offer of £230 million ($358m; €360m).

However, Scottish National Party MP Michael Russell is calling for action by regulators to stop such a sale.

“We should be active in opening up the secrecy and the potential damage that could be caused by the sale of the SMG newspaper interests to the wrong bidder,” he commented. “And, for avoidance of doubt, one of those wrong bidders is undoubtedly the Barclay brothers and Andrew Neil.”

Russell argues that SMG has an obligation to find a buyer whose purchase of the titles will ensure plurality and fair competition in Scotland’s newspaper sector.

The Barclays do not meet this criterion, as they already own the Edinburgh Evening News, the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

Their bid is a deliberately high one, above the £200m SMG said it sought. Included in the offer is a ‘premium’ to take into account anticipated regulatory hurdles.

The recently knighted gothic twins whose interests extend from retailing to media run their labyrinthine business empire from a fortified private island offshore from Guernsey.

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff