Feature

From £665m to £1: The changing shape of Britain's modern newspaper business

LONDON - It's been more than 300 years since The Daily Courant became the first recognisable regular British daily newspaper during the reign of Queen Anne in 1702.

Mastheads in ownership moves in recent years
Mastheads in ownership moves in recent years

Hundreds of titles have come and gone since then, while even more have changed hands and changed names.

Even since The Independent, the youngest national daily, was formed in 1986, eight national newspapers have changed owners, either through competitive acquisitions or financial adversity.

Britain's national dailies and Sundays have always been able to attract a millionaire or two when they need to, even when seemingly down on their luck.

Today's deal for The Independent differs only in that the newspaper business is now better suited for the deep pockets of billionaires, despite Lebedev paying a nominal sum of £1.

In stark contrast, the Barclay Brothers needed to stump up £665m to secure The Daily and Sunday Telegraph just six years ago, despite the financial travails of then parent Hollinger International.

Key milestones since The Independent's arrival: 

  • March 2010 - Lebedev buys The Independent and The Independent on Sunday from Independent News & Media for £1.
  • January 2009 - Lebedev buys a 75.1% stake in the loss-making Evening Standard from the Daily Mail and General Trust.
  • 2004 - The Telegraph Group is sold to the Barclay brothers for £665m, following a bidding process that attracted interest from DMGT, private equity groups Candover and 3i and Richard Desmond's Express Newspapers.
  • 2000 - Daily Express, Sunday Express and Daily Star sold to Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell by United News & Media for £125m (Desmond launches Daily Star Sunday in 2002).
  • Hinduja Group, the conglomerate run by the billionaire Hinduja brothers, also submitted a bid for the papers believed to be between £100m and £120m.
    There was also interest from DMGT; the Barclay brothers, owners of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Sunday Business; Hollinger International, the owner of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph; and David Montgomery, the former Mirror Group chief executive.
  • 1998 - Tony O'Reilly takes control of The Independent in a £29m deal including £3m equity and £26m debt. According to an IN&M spokesman the total O'Reilly paid over the years for his equity was between £50m and £70m.
  • 1995 - Today, the first full colour daily launched by Eddy Shah, ceases publication on 17 November.
  • 1995 - Independent News & Media and Mirror Group Newspapers up their stakes in The Independent.
  • 1994 - Tony O'Reilly takes his first stake in The Independent, acquiring around 30% of the company behind it, Newspaper Publishing, for £22m.
  • 1993 - The Guardian and Manchester Evening News Limited buys The Observer from Lonrho for £20m. The acquisition prevents a likely merger between The Observer and The Independent on Sunday.
  • 1987 - Rupert Murdoch's News International takes over the ailing Today, which was launched by Eddy Shah in 1986 as the first national colour daily newspaper.
  • 1986 - The Independent launches with £18m of backing from 30 financial institutions including Prudential, Legal & General, Foreign & Colonial and the Water Authority Pension Fund.

How Alexander Lebedev became a British press baron