Hollinger drafts in Bell as media frenzy over crisis bites

LONDON - Hollinger International has drafted in Bell Pottinger Communications in an attempt to calm fevered media speculation over the future of the Telegraph Group.

Hollinger, which is being advised by investment bank Lazard on the possible break up of its operations, brought in Bell Pottinger founders Lord Bell and Piers Pottinger last week as the need for UK PR advice became apparent.

Nobody at Hollinger’s UK offices was available for comment on the appointment, but it is understood that Bell and Pottinger will try to quell speculation that Hollinger is about to sell the Telegraph Group, which comprises The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.

Canadian-based Hollinger, which also owns the Jerusalem Post and the Chicago Sun- Times is under pressure to sell off its various businesses, following the resignation of its chief executive and major shareholder Lord Black.

Black quit Hollinger after it emerged that he had received £4m in unauthorised non-competition payments.

New York agency Kekst and Company is handling PR for Hollinger in the US, while Lord Black has hired Robinson Lerer & Montgomery as his personal PR adviser.

Last week, FTSE 100 publisher The Daily Mail and General Trust Group (DMGT) officially declared its interest in buying the Telegraph titles and hired Finsbury to advise it on the PR implications of a possible bid. The appointment does not affect DMGT’s arrangement with retained financial PR adviser Tulchan Communications.

Daily Express owner Richard Desmond is also reported to be lining up a bid for the Telegraph titles.

This week Hollinger filed documents with Canadian regulators saying that the company needed to secure support payments of £8.5m for the 12 months to September 2004.

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