O'Reilly courts biographer

David Hellier,Linda Taylor
Saturday 13 August 1994 23:02 BST

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Louise Thomas

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IVAN FALLON, the former deputy editor of the Sunday Times and biographer of Tony O'Reilly, is in discussions about a top editorial position at the media magnate's South African newspaper group.

Mr Fallon visited South Africa recently and met some of the editors of the Argus Newspaper group, in which Independent Newspapers, Dr O'Reilly's Irish-based newspaper company, has a controlling stake.

Sources close to the group say that Dr O'Reilly would like Mr Fallon to develop the Argus group following the elections. Mr Fallon, who still writes a regular column for the Sunday Times, says that the option of working in South Africa for Argus is one of a number of things he is considering.

Mr Fallon is believed to have received an advance of around pounds 80,000 for writing Dr O'Reilly's biography from Hodder & Stoughton. It is due to be published next month. He is reported to have collected a pay-off of more than pounds 300,000 when he left his full-time post at the Sunday Times.

Independent Newspapers acquired a 31 per cent shareholding in Argus this year for around pounds 20m. Argus owns 12 newspapers. Last week, Independent Newspapers (which also has a near 30 per cent shareholding in Newspaper Publishing, publishers of the Independent on Sunday) inceased its stake in Argus, which is the largest newspaper group in South Africa, to 34.99 per cent. This is the maximum permitted without triggering a takeover bid.

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