The Barclay brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph, took out a $375 million loan from HSBC to support a struggling part of their business empire.
The Daily Telegraph has been in the headlines this week after chief political commentator Peter Oborne resigned from the newspaper, writing a scathing attack on the undue influence that advertisers had over editorial matters. He alleges that coverage of HSBC, among other prominent advertisers, was unduly favorable, writes Simon Bowers in The Guardian. The timing of the loan only raises further suspicions.
Oborne alleges that reporters were “discouraged” from writing articles criticizing the bank, shortly after the Barclay brothers agreed terms on the loan. Terms were agreed on 14 December 2012, and Oborne wrote that he had noticed a significant change in editorial policy towards HSBC from early 2013 onwards.
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The loan was taken out to support Yodel, a parcel delivery company also owned by the Barclay brothers, which made a $168 million loss for the year to 30 June 2013. The company effectively refinanced with HSBC, using the new loan to pay off existing money borrowed from Lloyds Banking Group.
Yodel company filings attest that $363 million was owed to HSBC at the end of June 2013, and there is no evidence that the debt has ever been repaid. The Barclay family refused to comment directly on the matter, but a source close to them drew attention to the fact that the family owns businesses that have taken out loans from a number of different banks.
Winning back HSBC advertising
Oborne claims that the paper has given minimal coverage to the recent scandals involving HSBC. He also alleges that the bank suspended its advertising in the paper following an investigation the Telegraph made into leaked personal details from accounts held with HSBC in Jersey, which led to a concerted effort on the paper’s behalf to win back the advertising.
This effort involved ordering staff to delete any documents related to the HSBC investigation, and Oborne claims that an insider told him the bank’s advertising spend was incredibly valuable.
A Telegraph spokesperson refused to comment on the paper’s relationship with HSBC, but did state that: “It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper.”