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June 8, 2023

Barclays ousted as buyer sought for Telegraph and Spectator

Sale of Telegraph and Spectator to highest bid now looks likely.

By Dominic Ponsford

Lloyds Banking Group has effectively repossessed Telegraph Media Group and The Spectator over an outstanding debt owed by the Barclay family which is reported to total around £1bn.

Telegraph business editor Christopher Williams today informed readers that Lloyds has taken control of Telegraph Media Group in “an unprecedented move by a bank in modern times”.

Chairman Aidan Barclay, 67, and his brother Howard, 63, have been removed from the board of TMG by AlixPartners who have been appointed as receivers of the Telegraph and Spectator’s ultimate parent company – Bermuda-based B.UK. The pair are the sons of Sir David Barclay who bought the Telegraph, along with his brother Frederick, in 2004 from Conrad Black for £665m. Sir David Barclay died in 2021.

There have been reports that the Barclay family has been seeking a buyer for Telegraph Media Group since 2018. That sale process now looks set to be expedited by Lloyds in order to recover as much as it can from the money owed.

Both the Telegraph and Spectator are profitable businesses so there is no question about their financial viability or the fact that there will be many willing owners.

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TMG chief executive Nick Hugh told staff yesterday: “I want to assure you all that this is a successful, profitable business, on course to hit one million subscriptions this year. I don’t anticipate any operational or staff changes. On the contrary, I am confident we will continue to grow and prosper.”

The Telegraph reports that receivers are in talks to appoint an independent chairman during this interim period of ownership.

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It also reports that former editor-in-chief of the title William Lewis is seeking private backing to lodge a bid.

Other likely bidders range from rival groups such as DMGT and News Corp to GB News investor Paul Marshall. German publisher Axel Springer and Belgian news group Mediahuis are also acquisitive publishers who are likely to show an interest.

The loans in question reportedly date back to before the 2008 financial crisis and were evidently secured against the two publishing businesses.

Bank of Scotland (part of Lloyds) said in a statement reported by The Times: “Due to debts being in default and with no sign they would be repaid, Bank of Scotland was regrettably left with no other choice but to appoint receivers over B.UK. Limited.

“The receivers subsequently initiated changes to the directors of certain B.UK subsidiaries, with independent directors appointed to Ellerman Investments, Telegraph Media Group, and Spectator (1828). 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.”

The Times first reported on 6 June that the Telegraph’s owner was “on the verge of administration”.

The Barclay family said in response: “Speculation about the business entering administration is unfounded and irresponsible.”

In a new statement, the Barclay family said: “We can confirm that discussions with Lloyds Banking Group remain ongoing. We hope to come to an agreement that will satisfy all parties.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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