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Hollinger's assets attract up to 50 interested parties

LONDON - As many as 50 parties have now declared an interest in buying Hollinger International's newspaper assets, which include the Daily Telegraph, but a decision on a sell-off may not come until the spring at the earliest.

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The 50 includes around a dozen media companies and individuals, including Richard Desmond, Mohammed Al Fayed and the Daily Mail & General Trust, which have already been linked to a bid for the Telegraph Group, as well as the owner of USA Today, Gannett, which has expressed an interest.

Spectator chairman Algy Cluff is also believed to be planning a management buyout of the political magazine.

Alongside the media owners, there are the venture capitalists and investment banks, which have also been linked to buying up Hollinger. Earlier today, it was revealed that private equity firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, which had been in talks with Hollinger about taking a stake, abandoned the talks.

The firm had been linked to possibly buying all or part of Hollinger's stake in Hollinger International, the company that owns the Telegraph papers in the UK and the Chicago Sun Times and the Jerusalem Post.

A review of Hollinger is being conducted by its financial adviser Lazards and will be used to decide, alongside the findings of a report by a special committee of the company's board members, what to do with its assets.

However, the special committee is not expected to reveal its findings until well into the new year, possibly February or March, and Lazard will not make its recommendation until it has seen the report.

Hollinger's troubles surfaced when $32m worth of unauthorised payments to board members, including chairman Lord Conrad Black, were uncovered.

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