Earlier this year, after Sir Frederick Barclay and his family defaulted on a £1.1 billion debt, Lloyds Bank seized control of the family’s double-barreled heirlooms, The Telegraph, the influential center-right broadsheet and Tory vade mecum, and The Spectator, the prestigious conservative newsmagazine, and put them both up for auction. Of course, media assets with such weighty political influence and cultural heritage rarely come on the block. In the U.S., we saw this phenomenon a decade ago, when troubled but storied assets Businessweek and Newsweek came up for sale. And then we saw it a half decade-ish ago, when Time, Fortune, and The Los Angeles Times all hit auction, and Laurene Powell Jobs agreed to a controlling position in The Atlantic.
Unsurprisingly, even in a nebulous European recession and pricey debt environment, the sale of these historic British assets—and The Telegraph, in particular—drew interest from some of the world’s most notable media barons, including Rupert Murdoch, Mathias Döpfner, Lord Rothermere and Sir Paul Marshall, among others. Will Lewis, the former C.E.O. of Dow Jones and AP board member, had mounted a bid before he was courted by Jeff Bezos to run The Washington Post.