Branson 'wanted to join bid for Telegraph'

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The Independent Online

The billionaire Sir Richard Branson has attempted to join the German media group Axel Springer in its bid for The Daily Telegraph, it was reported last night.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel saidthe Virgin boss had offered to team up with the group and had been seeking 51 per cent ownership of the newspaper, but that Springer had rejected his offer.

A source close to the Springer bid confirmed it was bidding for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator but was not interested in Hollinger International's other titles, which include The Jerusalem Post and Chicago Sun-Times.

The source said speculation that Springer had offered €1bn (£670m) for the Telegraph titles was "fantastical".

The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported the Springer group had offered €740m for the titles. Der Spiegel said offers from all interested parties, which include the Daily Mail & General Trust, the Barclay brothers, and the venture capital firms 3i and Candover and Apax Partners, varied from €745m to €1bn.

Sir Richard's personal wealth has been valued at £2bn. He has ownership of 200 companies in his Virgin group, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobiles, Virgin Megastores and Virgin Trains.

A spokesman for Sir Richard was uncontactable last night.