Successful end to brothers' 18-year campaign gets mixed reaction
Thursday 24 June 2004
Part messenger-boy and part general rallying his troops, Jeremy "Custard Socks" Deedes toured
The Daily Telegraph yesterday to bring the staff glad tidings of their new employers.
Part messenger-boy and part general rallying his troops, Jeremy "Custard Socks" Deedes toured The Daily Telegraph yesterday to bring the staff glad tidings of their new employers.
If the Telegraph chief executive's enthusiasm for the change in ownership was as outspoken as his preferred choice of ankle wear, it was not entirely shared by those he was addressing. Mr Deedes told staff he was "delighted " by the successful £665m purchase of the papers by the Barclay twins, and said it represented a successful end to their 18-year campaign to get their hands on the titles. The new owners, said Deedes, were in it for the "long term".
Confirmation of the Barclays' acquisition brought a brief cheer from staff on the daily, but on the 14th-floor home of The Sunday Telegraph there was a muted response.
Relief that months of uncertainty over the future of the papers has ended is tempered by concerns about the costs of the protracted auction process. Lazards bank, acting for the previous owner, Hollinger International, has dragged every last penny from bidding parties.
The Barclays have had to pay far more for the group than they had agreed last year with the former chief executive, Lord Black of Crossharbour, in a deal thrown out by a US court.
One Telegraph executive said: "It is slightly annoying that the price has gone so high. Basic economic law dictates that they are not going to be able to invest as much as before."
But there is scepticism about the record of the Barclays in running other newspapers, notably The Scotsman (circulation down 5.42 per cent year on year) and the defunct European.
And some are nervous at the prospect of the arrival of Andrew Neil, the former editor of The Sunday Times, who now manages the Barclays newspaper titles ( The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Business).
But one daily executive suggested Mr Neil will "not get a big role", and one on the Sunday predicted that the high-profile media commentator would be limited to being a "quasi-consultant". It is understood the Barclays have not yet talked to Mr Neil about a future role for him at the Telegraph group.
But despite the fears at Canary Wharf, the over-riding feeling among staff was one of gratitude that rivals to the Barclays had not prevailed.
Staff had been even more worried that a bid by the finance group 3i, advised by David Montgomery, the former chief executive of Mirror Group, would succeed. He had proposed severe cost-cutting. "We are very relieved it's not Monty," one executive said.
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