The Daily and Sunday Telegraph will be put up for sale, as Lloyds Banking Group seeks to recover debts owed by the newspapers’ owners. The Barclay family reportedly owes hundreds of millions of pounds, prompting Lloyds to place the family’s holding company, B.UK, into receivership.
As the bank prepares to put the Telegraph Media Group (TMG) titles up for auction, a number of prospective bidders are in the mix – and have been for some time, as rumours of the Telegraph’s sale have been circulating since 2016.
“If this was an exercise in maximising the volume of prospective buyers then it would be described as elegantly designed,” comments Douglas McCabe, CEO and Director of Publishing and Tech at Enders Analysis. “Rumours of a potential sale have been rife for years, but nothing peaks interest like the certainty of a sale.”
Hot off the press
A UK media group such as DMGT (which owns the Mail, Metro and i) looks likely to make a bid, not least because the company already sells the Telegraph’s print advertising.
News UK (The Times) and National World (The Scotsman) have also been tipped as potential suitors, though as with DMGT, such a deal would have to overcome regulatory, competition and media plurality hurdles. A non-news group could avoid some of these concerns, paving the way for a publishing giant such as Future or Bauer Media.
Saudi investor Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel, who took a 30 percent stake in the Evening Standard and the Independent, may also be in the running, according to Alice Enders, Head of Research at Enders Analysis. Meanwhile Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, who was linked to a bid for the Telegraph in 2018, could re-enter the fray.
Europe and beyond
“Interest from a wide variety of companies looks inevitable,” says McCabe. “UK, Europe, perhaps beyond.” The European players in question include Axel Springer, the German publishing giant that owns Politico and Business Insider; Belgian company Mediahuis, whose Irish subsidiary is chaired by former TMG CEO Murdoch MacLennan; and DPG Media Group, owner of media brands across the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.
Another option is that a non-trade buyer who shares the Telegraph’s political leanings “wishes to exert influence,” remarks Alice Alice Enders, “noting that Boris Johnson, their previous star journalist, is no longer PM.”
While the Telegraph is under Lloyds’ ownership, the bank is expected not to exercise editorial influence, and has appointed financial firm Lazard to explore the sale. Lazard declined to comment on the matter.