Barclays Telegraph Group deal complete

Black: bought the paper in 1985

Fletcher: “behind a shared vision”

The Daily Telegraph has come home,” is how one representative of the billionaire Barclay twins summed up the culmination of their seven-month bid to buy the paper.

It was a reference to the fact that the Telegraph titles are back in British hands this week after being owned by the Canadian Conrad Black since 1985.

The executive was reportedly speaking at the signing of the ownership documents at London solicitors Herbert Smith on Friday morning.

No staff changes have yet been made at Canary Wharf and insiders believe the editors of the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Telegraph and Spectator magazine will at least be in the Barclays’ starting line-up. They are understood to have already met Aidan Barclay, son of Sir David, who is to take over the day-to-day running of the Telegraph Group.

Neither the Barclay twins, nor the editor-in-chief of their Scotsman titles, Andrew Neil, have yet been spotted at Canary Wharf. But their representatives are said to be actively engaged in getting to know the business.

The final scene in a drama that started in November, when Black was forced to quit as chief executive of the Telegraph Group parent company, Hollinger International, played out in the early hours of Friday morning.

Black, who was forced out after being accused of taking millions from the company, tried to force a shareholder vote on the Barclays bid to buy the Telegraph Group for £665 million.

Black retains 18 per cent of the equity and 68 per cent of the voting shares in Hollinger International.

Judge Leo Strine, at the Chancery Court in the US State of Delaware where Hollinger is registered, returned a judgment ruling against Black on Thursday. Black then appealed to Delaware’s Supreme Court, which ruled against him late on Thursday night (around 4am on Friday, UK time).

Black will now have no more say in the running of the Telegraph titles, although Hollinger International continues to pursue him with a $1.25 billion lawsuit.

Telegraph Group editorial director Kim Fletcher said that over the next few weeks the new owners will be putting together a long-term strategy for the newspapers – something that has been missing since the current ownership uncertainty started last November.

This plan is likely to include a response to The Times and The Independent launching tabloids and The Guardian’s planned switch to an in-between Berliner size.

Fletcher said: “Until now they have only had an external view of the company.

Now is their chance to come in and see exactly how the papers are run. It’s exciting to be able to sit down, go through things and get behind a shared vision.”

The Telegraph Group’s NUJ father of chapel, John Carey, said: “We’ve been so used to sitting in limbo waiting for something to happen that the overwhelming feeling is we are pleased to know who the owners are and who we are dealing with.”

Aidan Barclay has already agreed to meet NUJ representatives to discuss staff concerns about the takeover.

A major test for staff relations with the new owners is likely to come in September when the NUJ submits its pay claim for January 1, 2005.

By Dominic Ponsford

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