February 7th, 2012

Exclusive: Office of Fair Trading to Rule on Ashcroft Bid
+ + OFT Fears Dominance of Political Monitoring Sector + +
+ + City Takeover Panel Requires “Whitewash Resolution” + +

Guido reported last month that Lord Ashcroft was adding to his political publishing empire by buying DeHavilland Political Intelligence for £12.8 million. This will give him control of the political intelligence services sector in the UK. PoliticsHome was his first purchase, originally conceived to take on Dods’ established political monitoring business, in the end instead of out-competing the rival Dods, Ashcroft bought and merged the two loss making businesses. PoliticsHome is losing £10,000 a week and the bigger Dods is losing £20,000 a week because their print businesses are, according to the directors “in long-term structural decline”. As a financial imperative the emphasis has shifted onto organising lobbyist’s events and conferences as well as selling political monitoring and intelligence. The event organising business could be hit hard by the statutory registration of lobbyists being coupled with politicians and civil servants having to register their contacts with lobbyists. Politicians will simply stop attending and if they don’t come, the lobbyists won’t pay.

The key growth business is political monitoring, 40% of Dods’ revenues comes from this sector. It had one rival, DeHavilland, founded in 1998 by Adam Afriyie, now Conservative MP for Windsor; he sold it in 2005, to Guardian Media Group owned Emap for £8 million, now they are now selling it on to Ashcroft-controlled Dods plc for £12.8 million. If the Office of Fair Trading nods the deal through it will give the combined group control of the political monitoring sector which is used by corporate and public affairs professionals to keep track of political and legislative developments. The lack of competition will inevitably allow the combined near-monopoly to jack up prices to customers. Ouch.

The takeover deal is being funded entirely by Lord Ashcroft underwiting a share placing that will see his resultant holding in Dods plc potentially go up to 42.9%, way over the 29.9% limit past which the City Takeover Code requires the purchaser to make a full offer to the remaining shareholders to buy them out. Dods are seeking a Rule 9 Waiver on his behalf to allow it to go through without Ashcroft making an offer for the shares he does not already own in Dods, effectively stranding the minority shareholders in the company. Minority shareholders might be looking for an exit given that the illiquid shares have performed badly, more than halving since Ashcroft bought a controlling stake. The Takeover Panel has ruled that Dods need to get a difficult “Whitewash Resolution” from the minority shareholders at an Extraordinary General Meeting to wave the deal through. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, the EGM is being held quietly and without any fanfare at this very moment in the City offices of the company’s law firm, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP. Shareholder attendance will be very limited…


  1. 1
    Anonymous says:

    Leaves you as the only “real” (i.e. profitable and therefore sustainable) competitor. How do we buy shares (anonymously of course)?


    • 2
      Rupert says:

      The internet is so yesterday darlinks.


      • 14
        Rage Against the Political Elite says:

        Education Education Education. To learn how to ROB the TAX payer. Work in the Public and Quasi Private Sector. Get a few gongs call me SIR or Lord and I will support the whole Putrid Economic system until it collapses. Oh sorry already has once we cant squeeze any more out of the TAX payer or Borrow against them.


        • 16
          Rage Against the Political Elite says:

          If you think things are going BAD IN GREECE. Wait till it collapses and the FRAUDing comes here.


    • 6
      Fuck off Bíllý says:

      Shut up, Bíllý. We all know it’s you. Even though Guido banned you, you’re still here licking his arse.


      • 13
        Selohesra says:

        You mustn’t ban 8illy – we are all libertarians here and that doesn’t really fit with banning things – even if some of his comments were dashed off with a bit too much haste.


    • 32
      Ivor Tapeworm says:

      I presume (?) that ALL shareholders were given adequate (statutory) notice of the EGM.


    • 38
      Richard says:

      Yes, come on Guido – this is hardly an industry with big barriers to entry.

      If Ashcroft gets a “near-monopoly” and jacks prices up too high, others will start up in competition.

      Isn’t that how free markets work?

      I hope these complaints are just preparing the ground for your own competing service, and not a genuine pro-regulation stance.


  2. 3
    Ah! Monika says:

    O/T but I have to go out.

    “Sir Paul McCartney will reportedly honour the Queen by taking part in her Diamond Jubilee concert this summer.”

    So good of him.


  3. 4
    Reaction by Labour MP after reading all that says:

    My cat’s name is Wilbur.


  4. 7

    So did he foretell the possibilities of political monitoring or did a plain bad investment pave the way for a fortuitous one?

    This is at a geekier level that I normally have time or interest to examine but if it going to become centre stage then we need to know.


  5. 8
    Gordon Brown says:

    This week I’ll be going to see Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace 3D. Lord Mandelson’s in it apparently.


  6. 9
    sockpuppet #4 says:

    So thats complicated stuff about lobbying or summit.

    Can’t we just have a video of him picking his nose or falling over in an amusing way?


  7. 12
    sockpuppet #4 says:

    OK, to pick out a tiny bit of this, ignoring my resistance to the idea that “political intelligence” is anything other than an oxymoron, or bullshit about bullshitters.

    So, lobbyists have to pay to keep ahead of politics and reports. A monopoly makes that more expensive.
    How come people can’t just read reports themselves?
    Why can’t lobbyists just piss off?


    • 19

      You are a farmer.
      You plough your field.
      You get richer.
      You get someone to plough your field.
      The person who ploughs your field gets richer.
      He pays someone else to plough the field that he is paid to plough.
      That person gets richer…


    • 20
      Grumpy Old Man says:

      Because in our rent-seeking economy, pretending that you have a means of giving a rent-seeker an edge is a way to coin money. To misquote Wilde, it’s the Unspeakable chasing after the Chimerical.


  8. 17
    LabourBot says:

    Murdoch,Ashcroft, Thatcher, Coulson.


  9. 23
    William Hague says:

    Lord Ashcroft has a very nice arse.


  10. 25
    Bob Crow says:


  11. 26
    Anonymous says:

    what are you trying to say?
    too many words to assimilate


  12. 27


  13. 30
    ToonBob... says:

    Happy days…. hahahahaha


  14. 37
    Jimmy says:

    Why can’t he just do what he normally does and pretend someone else really owns it?


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Gyles Brandreth writes in his memoirs:

“Sunday, May 10, 1998

Early start: appearing on Breakfast With Frost, to be broadcast from 11 Downing Street. The Chancellor [Gordon Brown] is grouchily amiable, but so earnest — and still biting his fingernails to the quick.

After the show, he took us upstairs to his flat. He lives above No 10, while Blair and family are in the No 11 duplex, which is bigger and more like a proper house.

I was intrigued that, when he took us into his bedroom, the Chancellor rather ostentatiously opened the built-in wardrobes, as if he wanted us to see the women’s frocks that were hanging in there.

They looked quite large, but I don’t think they belong to Gordon. I assume they belong to his girlfriend [Sarah Macaulay, who he later married].

I presume he was keen for us to know that he has one — and that she’s not a ‘beard’. I don’t think he does anything without calculation.”

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