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Former Chancellor Zahawi in talks to chair Barclays Very Group

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Nadhim Zahawi, the former chancellor, is in talks to preside over the largest remaining part of the Barclay family’s business empire, fueling speculation he will join a mass exodus of Tory MPs in the general election.

Sky News has learned that Mr Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010, is among the candidates to become the next chairman of Very Group, the Liverpool-based online retail and financial services company.

Municipal sources said at the weekend that discussions were underway, but cautioned that there was no certainty that Mr Zahawi would take the job.

If he accepts it, the former Conservative leadership candidate is expected to announce that he will join former Prime Minister Theresa May and former Conservative Party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis to stand down at the next election.

Mr Zahawi has been acting as an intermediary between the Barclay family and Abu Dhabi-based investor IMI Investments since his interest in participating in the Daily Telegraph bid emerged last summer.

He had been tipped to chair the media group if RedBird IMI, a vehicle run by former CNN president Jeff Zucker, had managed to buy it.

However, a backlash from Conservative MPs prompted Downing Street to step in and change legislation that would ban ownership of British newspaper titles by investors linked to a foreign state.

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RedBird IMI is now expected to look to hold a new auction of Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine.

The Barclays, former owners of London’s Ritz Hotel, have already lost control of several of their assets.

Last month, Yodel Group, its parcel delivery business, narrowly avoided insolvency when it was sold to a consortium backed by executives from Shift, a rival.

Sky News revealed on Friday that the parent company of ArrowXL, another delivery company, has been placed into administration by HSBC, its main lender..

Half of the £1.2 billion loan Barclays took out from RedBird IMI and IMI was secured by their media assets, with most of the remainder guaranteed by Very Group.

At different times over the past decade, Telegraph’s owners have considered selling their online sales business, having valued it at more than £3 billion.

However, they refused to sell it because potential buyers failed to meet their price expectations.

Last month, Very Group confirmed that Dirk Van den Berghe was stepping down as chairman after two years.

Aidan Barclay, who also chaired the Telegraph for years, is now acting president.

The company also said it had secured £125 million of new debt financing from Carlyle Global Credit and IMI.

With 4.4 million customers, Very Group operates under the Very and Littlewoods brands and sells a wide range of clothing, electrical appliances and furnishing products, supported by a significant consumer credit operation. consumption.

He said his recent performances had been “resilient”.

Co-founder of YouGov, the market research and polling company, Mr Zahawi would be a strong candidate for the Very Group job because of his digital business credentials.

As well as a brief stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he held other ministerial posts at the Department of Health and Social Care, where he oversaw the vaccine rollout during the COVID pandemic, at the Ministry of Affairs and as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. .

Both Very Group and Mr Zahawi declined to comment this weekend.

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