The Barclay family has renewed its efforts to persuade Britain’s biggest high street lender to regain control of the Telegraph newspapers after repeating an offer to repay most of the debt it owes the bank.
Sky News understands the papers’ former owners wrote to Lloyds Banking Group again last week to reiterate an offer to settle the £1bn debt.
Lloyds is said to have reacted immediately by informing Barclays that it could either repay more than £1.1bn; of loans in full or participate in a newly launched auction of the broadsheet newspaper titles.
The latest exchange between the two sides comes after months of negotiations in the wake of Lloyds’ decision to appoint receivers to take charge of the Telegraph and Spectator magazine’s ultimate holding companies.
A court hearing in the British Virgin Islands, which was adjourned last month, is expected to resume in the coming weeks, but with little sign that either side is prepared to provide sufficient grounds to resolve the case.
Sky News revealed in October that Barclays had made the offer of 1 billionbacked by a funding guarantee from First Abu Dhabi Bank and that Lloyds had rejected it on the basis that it would pursue a formal sale process for two of Britain’s most influential media assets.
Talks orchestrated by Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, have now begun with potential buyers including Sir Paul Marshall, the hedge fund billionaire and GB News shareholder.
Other potential bidders include Lord Rothermere, the Daily Mail owner, who has also been in talks with Middle Eastern investors, and London-listed media group National World.
The new board of the Telegraph holding company has established an incentive plan to keep key employees motivated during the sale process, with collective financial rewards totaling millions of poundsrevealed Sky News recently.
Lloyds’ decision to go ahead with an auction – which is expected to generate bids of around £600m – has angered Barclays amid suggestions the sources of its funding could prompt ministers to launch a public interest inquiry .
Until June, the papers were headed by Aidan Barclay – the nephew of Sir Frederick Barclay, the octogenarian who, with his late twin Sir David, engineered the takeover of the Telegraph 19 years ago.
Lloyds had been locked in talks with Barclays for years over refinancing loans given to them by HBOS prior to the bank’s rescue during the 2008 banking crisis.
The family’s debt to Lloyds also includes some funding linked to Very Group, the Barclay-owned online shopping business.
The Telegraph and Spectator disposals are being overseen by a new group of directors led by Mike McTighe, the boardroom veteran who chairs Openreach and IG Group, the financial trading firm.
McTighe has been appointed chairman of Press Acquisitions and May Corporation, the respective parent companies of TMG and The Spectator (1828), which publishes the media titles.
Both Lloyds and a spokesman for the Barclay family declined to comment.