Barclay brothers close to capturing Telegraph titles

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The Independent Online

The battle for control of The Daily Telegraph enters its final phase this weekend with the Barclay brothers favourites to win. Two bidders remain: the brothers, who own the The Scotsman, and a group led by the private equity company 3i.

The battle for control of The Daily Telegraph enters its final phase this weekend with the Barclay brothers favourites to win. Two bidders remain: the brothers, who own the The Scotsman, and a group led by the private equity company 3i.

Lazard, the investment bank handling the sale for the Telegraph's parent company, Hol-linger International, will make its recommendation before a board meeting on Monday.

The 3i group, advised by former Daily Mirror boss David Montgomery, was also claiming to be confident of success this weekend. It is bidding with US media investment group Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

The bidders have been finalising their financing arrangements to show that, if selected, they have the money in place to buy the group, which includes The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator.

Hollinger will hold a vote and is expected to announce the winner early this weekto bring the six-month race to an end. The group is expected to fetch close to £700m. Because the price of the newspapers has risen above expectations, unions fear job cuts.

Barry Fitzpatrick of the National Union of Journalists said: "It's difficult to see how sensible the arithmetic which has been applied is when the new owner takes over. The new owner will be looking to recoup their original investment. But it's not the type of paper that will benefit from short-term cost-cutting, given how competitive the market is."

Yesterday, the board of the Telegraph Group met - possibly for the last time in its current form - to sign off the 2003 accounts. The disgraced peer Lord Black, who owns the controlling stake in Hollinger International, is still a director on the US company's board along with his wife, the former Daily Telegraph columnist Barbara Amiel.

Meanwhile, Hollinger is claiming up to $1.2bn in damages from Lord Black and his associates. It claims they paid themselves $200m (£109m) in unauthorised "management fees" from company funds.

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