Bill Hughes, chairman of the industrial holding company, Grampian Holdings, and one of the early front-runners to make a bid for the Scotsman newspaper group, hinted yesterday that his consortium dropped out of the bidding because it felt the asking price was unrealistic.
Mr Hughes was involved in a consortium that had been interested in bidding for the group which includes the loss-making Evening News and the Aberdeen Press and Journal.
Mr Hughes's comments came as sources close to the Scotsman said that they hoped a deal might be completed early next month.
A number of bidders, believed to include Associated Newspapers and the Barclay Brothers, owners of the European, are now busy examining the Scotsman's books.
Mr Hughes' view is that a price in the region of pounds 170m would be too high for the business and that Thomson International might have to drop the asking price well below this. He said the numbers simply did not add up. There was little scope to increase the total market and little scope for further cost savings.
The Press and Journal is probably worth more than the Edinburgh papers because it has a bigger circulation and is strongly entrenched in North- east Scotland.
It would be logical for Caledonian Newspapers, owners of the Glasgow Herald, to try and buy the Press and Journal to obtain a cross-over from the west of Scotland to the North-east. However, Thomson and its merchant bankers, Morgan Grenfell, would prefer to sell all the Scottish titles in a single deal.