A consortium of Scottish businessmen is trying to buyer the Scotsman newspaper, according to reports this weekend.
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management and chairman of FirstGroup, property developer Mark Shaw and Ben Thomson, the leader of investment bankers Noble Group, are said to have made an informal approach to Johnston Press over its flagship title.
A report in the Sunday Times claimed several high-profile businessmen have been approached to join the consortium, which has the blessing of Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister.
The two sides were reported to be “a long way apart on price” with Johnston Press said to be seeking about £40m for the paper and its stablemates, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News.
In 2005, Johnston paid £160m to the Barclay brothers for the three titles.
Johnston Press moved quickly yesterday to deny that it planned to sell some of its titles.
The publishing group abandoned the planned sale of its Irish titles earlier this year, saying there had been plenty of interest, but not at a satisfactory price.
The group spent over â‚¬200m (£174m) buying Irish assets and had hoped to sell them for up to â‚¬70m.
Yesterday a spokesman said: “Having terminated discussions on the Irish disposal process some months ago there are no further plans underway.”
Johnston Press issues its interim results on Friday when investors will want an update on its refinancing plans for debts of around £450m.
In addition to sale claims, the Sunday Times article also said the consortium was in talks with Newsquest‘s Glasgow-based Herald Group about a joint venture to pool resources.
Previous attempts to merge the titles were blocked by politicians.