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Thatcher and Murdoch met before Times acquisition

Both sides have long denied that a meeting took place.

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and media mogul Rupert Murdoch met to discuss Murdoch's purchase of the Times - a meeting both sides have long denied as having ever taken place - a document released by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation over the weekend shows.

The two dined at Chequers on 4 Jan, 1981, a year and a half into Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister.

During the lunch meeting, Murdoch praised then incoming US President Ronald Reagan's conservative politics and outlined a plan for takeover of the Times.

Thatcher chief press secretary Bernard Ingham sent a "record of salient points" of the meeting to Thatcher the following day, in which he wrote:

The main purpose of Mr. Murdoch's visit was to brief the Prime Minister on his bid for Times Newspapers. (Before the meeting I had attempted to secure information about the 10 bids, as reported in the press, from the Department of Trade...

Murdoch was well aware of the other bidders, mentioning a number of them during the meeting.

In the official history of the Times, Murdoch is listed as the source for saying there was never a meeting with Thatcher prior to News Group purchasing the paper, and Thatcher kept their meeting top secret. Part of Ingham's note to Thatcher reads:

In line with your wishes, the attached has not gone outside No. 10 and is, of course, to be treated "Commercial - In Confidence".

News Group bought the Times and Sunday Times five weeks later on 13 February 1981.