Academic publisher Taylor & Francis has offered £300 million ($432 million) for the Oxford-based, family-owned Blackwell Publishing.

The bid was made on March 1, but a lack of response from the main board led Taylor & Francis chief executive Anthony Selvey to go public with the offer on March 12. Taylor & Francis is aware that there is support for a sale among a group of shareholders headed by Toby Blackwell, who is believed to control just over 50% of the voting shares.

Toby Blackwell has called for an extraordinary general board meeting to discuss the offer. Chairman of the board Nigel Blackwell, Toby's nephew, is working toward a public offering in the near future and does not favor a private sale. The meeting must take place within the next seven weeks. Toby Blackwell is seeking to appoint three additional directors to the board "to represent the interests of all independent shareholders."

It remains to be seen whether Toby Blackwell can harness sufficient support to force a private sale. Taylor & Francis is a logical front-runner, Selvey admitted: "The commercial logic of combining the two companies is compelling, given how complementary their businesses are." Staff is complementary as well. Jon Conibear, T&F's managing director, was in charge of Blackwell's science publishing arm until last October. Other international publishing companies have shown an interest in acquiring Blackwell John Wiley and Axel Springer may be waiting in the wings.