Abu Dhabi-backed fund poised to take over Telegraphon November 20, 2023 at 7:31 pm

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The fund, run by former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, says it has the money it needs to rescue the newspaper.

Sunday Telegraph paperImage source, Alamy

An Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund is poised to take control of the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine.

RedBird IMI said it had agreed to provide loans to repay debts owed by the publication’s previous owners, the Barclay family, that would bring the titles out of receivership.

If the deal is approved then Redbird IMI’s chief executive, former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, would run the business.

However, any deal is likely to face close regulatory scrutiny.

It comes five months after the Telegraph and Spectator were taken over by Lloyds bank as it sought to recover debts owed by Barclay brothers.

Lloyds launched a sales process of the business to recover more than £1bn that was outstanding.

However, on Monday the investment fund, which is a joint venture between US firm RedBird Capital and International Media Investments (IMI) of Abu Dhabi, confirmed it had reached a deal with the Barclays.

This would see the debts owed to Lloyds repaid, and the news titles taken out of receivership.

RedBird IMI will lend the Barclays £600m, secured against the publications, with IMI also providing a similar sized loan against other Barclay-owned assets.

Under the terms of the deal Redbird has the right to turn the loan secured against the Telegraph and Spectator into equity, which would hand it control of the titles.

A spokesman said it planned to “exercise this option at an early opportunity”.

Other bidders interested in the publications are seeking clarity on whether the auction process will still go ahead. They are also exploring legal options to ensure RedBird IMI’s Gulf backers are subject to the same levels of regulatory scrutiny their bids would have been subject to.

The BBC understands the Culture and Media Secretary, Lucy Frazer, has held discussions with other interested parties on this issue today.

‘Material influence’

On Sunday, six Conservative MPs wrote to Deputy PM Oliver Dowden and the business and culture secretaries to raise concerns about how RedBird IMI’s offer could affect national security and press freedom.

They said International Media Investments was owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Emirati royal family and the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The MPs wrote: “Material influence over a quality national newspaper being passed to a foreign ruler at any time should raise concerns, but given the current geopolitical context, such a deal must be investigated.”

In its statement, Redbird IMI said that following the transfer of ownership, RedBird Capital alone would take over the management of the titles. It added that International Media Investments “will be a passive investor only”.

It added: “RedBird IMI are entirely committed to maintaining the existing editorial team of the Telegraph and Spectator publications and believe that editorial independence for these titles is essential to protecting their reputation and credibility.”

Other names have been linked to the Telegraph and Spectator since they were put up for sale including GB News investor Sir Paul Marshall, Daily Mail publisher DMGT and German publisher Axel Springer.

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