'Mail' defends editor's two-year contract

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The Independent Online

Lord Rothermere, the chairman of the Daily Mail & General Trust, defended the publisher's decision to keep the Daily Mail's editor on a two-year contract yesterday, insisting it was necessary to stop rivals such as the Barclay brothers from poaching him.

Shareholders have criticised the newspaper group for giving Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, a two-year rolling contract despite executive pay guidelines.

But Lord Rothermere said yesterday that the deal was necessary. "Rupert Murdoch has tried to poach [Dacre] many times. The Barclay brothers will try to engage him soon," he said. Despite the chairman's apparent assumption that the Barclays already control The Daily Telegraph's owner Hollinger, Peter Williams, the group's finance director, insisted DMGT was still interested in bidding for the Telegraph titles. "Our position hasn't changed - if ... it is for sale, we will be interested," Mr Williams told Bloomberg News after the AGM. The group is believed to be ready to offer £500m for the titles.

A US judge is set to consider a slew of lawsuits later this month that may determine whether Lord Black can sell control of his Hollinger media empire to the Barclay twins.