Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch: Secret meeting with prime minister a month before making Times bid

Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA

A former Sunday Times editor who attempted a management buyout of the title 30 years ago has described as "highly improper" the latest revelations that  Margaret Thatcher held a secret meeting with Rupert Murdoch to discuss his rival bid for Times Newspapers.

Newly released private papers from the former prime minister's office revealed Thatcher met Murdoch, in secret, at Chequers in January 1981 - three weeks before he put in a successful bid for the loss-making Times and its Sunday sister title.

The document, available on the Guardian website, shows Murdoch outlined his plans to turn around the group and that he was "prepared to take losses for a limited, but unspecified period".

Murdoch's bid to take over the title was widely expected to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, because he already owned the Sun and the News of the World.

Critics at the time suggested that Thatcher had waved the deal through, but this has been denied ever since.

Sir Harold Evans, whose management buyout attempt for the Sunday Times was defeated by Murdoch's bid, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was not surprised that Thatcher and Murdoch had "cooked a deal" - something that he said official Times historians had been "at pains to deny".

"It's highly improper. Here's a prime minister meeting one of a number of bidders for Times Newspapers in secret. There's no mention of the law on monopolies.

"The whole thing is so squalid, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at being vindicated after all this time."

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