Lord Thomson of Fleet, the Toronto press baron, won control of the FP newspaper chain in a last-minute megabuck shootout last week.
With three competing bids set to expire at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, R. Howard Webster, a Montreal financier, raised his bid for the chain to $163.25 million with the bid to run for 20 minutes. The bid later was extended to 6:30 p.m. This enabled Thomason to raise his bid to $164.69 million. That would be the value if all shares of FP were tendered under the offer. Shortly after 6:30, Thomson had acquired more than 50 percent of the voting shares, ending a bidding war that began two months and $60 million earlier.
FP Publications Ltd. of Toronto publishes eight dailies including The Globe and Mail. Webster, one of the major shareholders in FP, is a former owner of The Globe.
The bidding battle for the FP chain began late in November when Conrad Black and Associates offered about $102 million for the chain. Webster followed with a slightly higher counteroffer. The bidding increased early this month as the Black group raised its bid to $119 million. Then Thomson entered the picture, offering $139 million for ownership. His $20 million raise was topped at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, Thomson saw the Webster bid and bumped it $10 million more. Webster increased his bid Friday, and then Thomson made his final -- and decisive -- move.
Thomson Newspapers controls 120 U.S. and Canadian daily and weekly publications with a total circulation of about 1.6 million. The addition of the eight FP papers raises the total to 2.4 million. Thomson also owns the Times of London and the Sunday Times.
Control of FP is held by Webster, the McConnell family of Montreal, the Sifton family of Winnipeg and the Bell family of Calgary.
A crucial 7.5 percent of the FP voting shares is held by Richard S. Malone, a retired Canadian brigadier and chairman of FP.
The Sifton family had been divided on whether an offer should be accepted for its shares.