Bid for `Observer' dismissed as a joke

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Tiny Rowland, the former chief executive of Lonrho, has confirmed making a bid of £30m to buy back the Observer. The Guardian Media Group, which owns the newspaper, said that it was treating Mr Rowland's unsolicited approach as a "joke" and was no t taking it seriously. Two years ago, Mr Rowland sold the Observer to the Guardian for £27m.

Mr Rowland told the Independent that he was serious in making his offer for the newspaper. He said he was proposing to fund the bid from his personal fortune, which is estimated at £400m.

He went on: "I would not have independent directors of the newspaper but would ensure that I had the right journalists to produce a super paper."

He confirmed that he had approached Harry Roche, managing director of the Guardian Group, with his offer three weeks ago. He added that he wanted the newspaper because "it would be fun".

Mr Rowland, 77, was forced to relinquish his executive role at Lonrho during a boardroom battle last year.

It was while he had control of the company that it bought the Observer.

The Guardian reacted with hostility to a front-page report in yesterday's Sunday Times which gave details of Mr Rowland's contact with Mr Roche. It accused the paper of being "completely inaccurate" in saying Mr Rowland's bid was to be considered by its board.

Jim Markwick, the Guardian's managing director, issued a statement last night in which he said: "The Observer is not for sale, whether to Mr Rowland or anyone else."