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Sunday, January 25, 2004

Black is black I want my paper back

I never met Conrad Black - now Lord Black - but sources tell me I once annoyed his missus - née Amiel, now Lady. Back in my booksy PR hack days - and hers as an interview-clinching journalista - I recall she was rather expert at getting at unpalatable truths. I felt my stable of sensitive authors were better left getting on with what they were good at, rather than be booted round in print to no good effect on their sales.

Anyway, does everyone realise what an astonishing coup Lord B has pulled off with the oddball Barclay brothers?

The Sirs David and Frederick Barclay have agreed to buy from Lord Black the company that controls the company that has majority voting rights in the company that owns the companies that run the Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post and The Spectator.

I mean, blimey! There's milord, fending off official probes and angry shareholders and God knows what else (not to mention looking at a little jail time, I wouldn't be surprised), and all the while the bounder's putting together this amazing deal ....

There were carrion buyers lining up to buy the Telegraph Group for anything up to £600 million. Meanwhile, there's Blackers and Barclay frères dealing to buy his 30 per cent holding in Hollinger International, which actually owns the Teleg Group, for a mere £260 million, giving them (Lord B having nimbly fixed things in his favour), 73 per cent of the voting rights in the company. En effet, they control the Telegraph titles, having forked out about half what they would have had to to buy them outright.

There's a book there somewhere ... something for the literate Lady B to busy herself with as hubby does his porridge?

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