Barclay brothers in £75m bid for 'Express'

The television presenter Chris Evans and the
Daily Star may be finally united, if the Barclay Brothers make a successful bid for the three newspaper titles owned by United News and Media.

The television presenter Chris Evans and the Daily Star may be finally united, if the Barclay Brothers make a successful bid for the three newspaper titles owned by United News and Media.

Despite fierce speculation in the City, officially both the Barclay Brothers' company, Press Holdings, and United, owner of the the Daily Express, Sunday Express and Daily Star, said yesterday that negotiations were "not currently taking place". Insiders at United confirmed, however, that Press Holdings had made an initial offer, believed to be about £75m, which was rejected by United. "People were shocked by the offer, how low it was," one said.

Lord Hollick, owner of United News and Media, is understood to want nearer £150m, a move the Barclays' bankers reject on the basis that the titles require extensive investment.

If a successful bid was to be made, it is understood that the Barclays' auditors will press for the Daily Star to be sold off, leaving Press Holdings, headed by Andrew Neil, to concentrate on the Express titles.

The most likely recipient of the tabloid newspaper is thought to be the Scottish Media Group, which now owns Mr Evans's Ginger Media Group, as well as Scottish Television and The Herald.

Nearly two years ago, before he sold Ginger Media, Mr Evans made an unsuccessful bid for the tabloid newspaper, offering to swap a stake in his company in return. Mr Evans himself is understood to be no longer interested in the Star.

News of the negotiations has raised hackles at the Daily Express, largely because of the political leanings of the Barclay Brothers. Under the editorship of Rosie Boycott, the newspaper has swung to the left, a position the potential new owners are likely to reverse. "Rosie would feel very bitter if the newspaper is sold to the right-leaning, anti-European Barclays. She regards that as a betrayal," said a senior source.

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