Margaret Thatcher had a secret meeting with Rupert Murdoch days before the media baron bought The Times and the Sunday Times, according to newly released files by the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust.
The archives papers show that Thatcher had a luncheon meeting with Murdoch at Chequers on 4 January, 1981. Murdoch was the owner of The Sun and the News of the World newspapers at the time of the meeting.
"It was kind indeed of you to let me interrupt your weekend at Chequers 10 days ago and I greatly enjoyed seeing you again," noted a letter from Murdoch which is included in the archive.
A note by Sir Bernard Ingham, long-term press secretary of Thatcher indicate that the issue of referring Murdoch's bid for The Times to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) was not taken up in the meeting.
All major newspaper takeovers had to be referred to the MMC, unless it involves a paper which is certified by the Secretary of State as unprofitable or on the verge of closure, according to the Fair Trading Act 1973.
The clause actually enabled Murdoch to own The Times without a referral due to the huge losses at the paper.
The meeting has been described as fresh information by historian Chris Collins, who have studied the newspaper industry and worked with Thatcher since 1992.
"He's not setting out some great plan to absolutely transform the British newspaper industry. He's hinting at it, but he certainly doesn't go far in that direction. It was not really an attempt to do a political deal," the BBC quoted Chris Collins as saying.
The archive papers also show how the conservatives came close to a split in 1981 in protest against the economic policies of the Thatcher government.
Thatcher also kept safely a page of doodle left by Ronald Reagan during the July 1981 G7 Summit in Ottwa. The doodle illustrates the head and torso of the former US president, indicating how bored he was during the meeting.
The archive papers are available at the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation and at the Churchill Archive Centre (CAC) in Cambridge.