Barclays 'to bring in partner for Hollinger bid'

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The Independent Online

The Barclay brothers are working on ways to structure a new deal to buy the Telegraph newspapers, including finding a private equity partner to launch a bid for the entire Hollinger International business.

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay had to rethink their options after a ruling in a Delaware court on Thursday scuppered a deal they had with Lord Black of Crossharbour, who has a controlling stake in Hollinger, to gain control of the Telegraph newspaper titles.

The judge said the secret arrangement was a breach of Lord Black's fiduciary duty to Hollinger International, which owns the Telegraph titles.

The Barclay brothers, who own The Scotsman newspaper and the Ritz hotel, may now join the formal auction process for the Telegraph newspaper assets. "All options are still being considered," a spokesman for the Barclay brothers said yesterday.

This is being run by the investment bank Lazard, and is likely to include Richard Desmond, owner of the Express newspapers, and the Daily Mail group.

The Barclay brothers, however, are thought to be unhappy with the bidding price. Their original bid was in the region of £259m, but the price tag attached by Lazard is nearer to £550m.

A bid for all of Hollinger International's assets, which include The Jerusalem Post and the Chicago Sun Times, would have to be around £800m. There are also concerns over a large tax liability that would arise from the sale.

This formal auction will be key to the future of the Daily Telegraph. The court order that sets out how the Delaware ruling will be implemented is expected this week and is likely to set down measures to safeguard the auction process.

The judge is keen for it to complete and it will be viewed as the means of establishing what outcome is in the best interests of Hollinger International shareholders.

The Barclays' existing offer is set to be suspended and the court order is also likely to put a time limit on an emergency defence measure introduced by Hollinger International.

This would have allowed the company to dilute Lord Black's shareholding through a rights issue and reduce his voting rights in the event of a takeover. These moves will be designed to ensure the Lazard process is protected and has time to reach its conclusions.