UK government halts Jeff Zucker Telegraph deal to perform probe

UK government halts Jeff Zucker Telegraph deal to perform probe

The UK government is halting Jeff Zucker’s Abu-Dhabi-backed RedBird IMI from buying the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine, citing concerns about the outlets retaining their editorial independence once the group takes over.

According to Mediaite, culture secretary Lucy Frazer issued a public interest “intervention notice” Thursday night, prompting media regulator, Ofcom, to investigate the proposed deal’s “potential breach of media standards.”

Roughly two weeks ago, former CNN boss Zucker, who is the CEO of investment group RedBird IMI, proposed a deal to fork over about $750 million to the Barclay family — owners of the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine — that would allow them to repay their nearly $1.4 billion debt to Lloyds Banking Group.

The Barclay family would transfer ownership to RedBird IMI, a joint venture between RedBird Capital and International Media Investments (IMI) of Abu Dhabi, funded primarily by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates’ vice-president.

The involvement of UAE leaders has sparked concerns in the UK over editorial independence at the publications should the deal go through.


The UK government has launched an investigation into Jeff Zucker's proposal to buy the Telegraph and Spectator publications.
The UK government has launched an investigation into Jeff Zucker’s proposal to buy the Telegraph and Spectator publications. Getty Images for WarnerMedia

In the past week, Zucker has gone on a public relations tour, telling The Financial Times he would would create an editorial advisory board to uphold the independence of The Telegraph and The Spectator and provide reassurances. 

The former CNN boss also lashed out at rival bidders for a conservative British publication of “slinging mud.”

Earlier this week, the exec also told The Telegraph’s business editor Christopher Williams he would “resign” if anyone came to him with any suggestion of pressure on the editorial team from the United Arab Emirates.


Zucker vowed in recent days that he would uphold the editorial independence of The Telegraph and Spectator, despite concerns to the contrary.
Zucker vowed in recent days that he would uphold the editorial independence of The Telegraph and Spectator, despite concerns to the contrary. Getty Images

The inquiry by Ofcom will “focus on ensuring the accurate presentation of news, free expression of opinion, and a sufficient plurality of views,” Mediaite said.

Frazer told the outlet that there’s a “need for a fair, transparent, and impartial process.” The investigations, to be concluded by January 26, 2024, will also involve the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) examining competition issues.

On late Friday, The Guardian reported that the Barclay family is expected to temporarily regain control of The Telegraph and Spectator but an independent board will remain in editorial and operational control under the government-ordered probe by Ofcom.

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