Britain’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph Put up for Sale After Bank Runs out of Patience

Britain’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph Put up for Sale After Bank Runs out of Patience
A woman reads a copy of The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, on May 21, 2009. (Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)
Chris Summers

A traditionally conservative newspaper group has been put up for sale after the Bank of Scotland—owned by the Lloyds Banking Group—ran out of patience with its owners over a £1 billion debt.

The Daily Telegraph, its Sunday sister paper, and The Spectator magazine will now be sold to the highest bidder after the failure of talks between the Barclay family and the bank.

Lloyds inherited a hefty loan to the Barclay brothers in 2008, when it took over the doomed HBOS bank during the financial crisis, and the debt had risen to £1 billion.

The Bank of Scotland issued a statement which said: “Unfortunately, no agreement could be reached, which prompted the appointment of receivers. While the receivers are now in place, the Bank remains willing to continue discussions to find a suitable solution.”

The Telegraph Media Group was bought by twin billionaire brothers David and Frederick Barclay in June 2004.

Bidding War Possible

Two of the companies who bid for the Telegraph in 2004—German publisher Axel Springer and the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT)—are expected to bid for the group again this time.

The DMGT, as publisher of a rival paper, the Daily Mail, may face scrutiny over competition regulation.

The Guardian newspaper said a third possible bidder could be Mediahuis, a Belgian group which owns De Telegraaf in the Netherlands, the Belfast Telegraph, and a string of newspapers in the Republic of Ireland.

The chairman and major shareholder of Mediahuis is Thomas Leysen, who is on the steering committee of the secretive Bilderberg Group.

In 2019 Frederick Barclay floated the idea of selling the group for £200 million but was opposed by his brother David, who died in 2021.

On Wednesday, former editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, wrote on Twitter, “Farewell to the Barclays, perhaps the oddest press barons of recent times (and they didn’t even become barons).”

Barclay Sons Removed From Board

David’s sons, Howard and Aiden Barclay, have been removed from the board of the group by the official receivers, Alix Partners.

Lloyds Banking Group has appointed AlixPartners as the official receivers for B.UK, the holding company which was controlled by the Barclays and owned by The Telegraph.

Alix Partners issued a statement which said, “The receivership over the shares in B.UK Limited is in no way related to the financial health or performance of the Telegraph or Spectator businesses and we do not anticipate any operational changes to the businesses or their employees.”

“Neither the Telegraph Media Group nor The Spectator is entering administration,” it added.

Sky News reported that merchant bank Lazard would oversee the sale process and AlixPartners said the day-to-day running of the papers and The Spectator would “continue as normal.”

The Telegraph has grown its subscriber base to 750,000 in recent years and is believed to be an attractive proposition to several media groups or even a wealthy individual, such as Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Ineos, who has recently been bidding to buy Manchester United.

Earlier this week the Barclay family said “speculation about the business entering administration is unfounded and irresponsible.”

On Wednesday a spokesman for the Barclay family—which also owns courier Yodel and online retailer Very—said: “We note the public statement made by AlixPartners. We can confirm that discussions with Lloyds Banking Group remain ongoing. We hope to come to an agreement that will satisfy all parties. As AlixPartners made clear, this situation is in no way related to the financial health or performance of the Telegraph or Spectator businesses.”

178-Year-Old Paper Which Broke Expenses Scandal

The Daily Telegraph was first printed in 1855 and it became the first British newspaper to venture into the internet, when it launched an online version in 1994.

The Telegraph, which tends to support the Conservative Party in its editorial line, was responsible in 2009 for the leaking of unredacted files of every MP, which led to a huge scandal.

Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer—now leader of the Labour Party—authorised the prosecution of six Labour MPs and a Conservative peer.

David Chaytor, Eliot Morley, Jim Devine, Denis McShane, Eric Ilsley, and Lord Hanningfield all went to jail for false accounting, while Margaret Moran, who was not well enough to stand trial, was given a supervision order.

PA Media contributed to this report.