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Jeff Zucker's Telegraph bid imperiled by push to change U.K. media ownership laws

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Mar 14, 2024
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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

RedBird IMI is evaluating its next steps in its bid to acquire the U.K.'s Telegraph and Spectator amid the government's push to ban foreign state ownership of newspapers.

Why it matters: If the new laws were passed, they would effectively kill the deal, at least in its current form.

The latest: The British government advanced legislation Wednesday that would amend the U.K.'s Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill to ban majority foreign ownership of its newspapers and magazines.

  • A spokesperson for RedBird IMI told the press it was "extremely disappointed" by the move and said that the firm "will now evaluate our next steps, with commercial interests continuing to be the sole priority."

The big picture: RedBird IMI's Telegraph bid had faced stiff pushback from conservative lawmakers over concerns regarding foreign ownership by Middle Eastern backers.

  • RedBird IMI is a joint venture between investment firm RedBird Capital and International Media Investments, an Abu Dhabi-based investment company. Jeff Zucker is RedBird IMI's CEO.
  • The Telegraph is hugely influential in conservative circles, and that party — colloquially known as the Tories — has majority control of the government.

What's next: The amendment is expected to be voted on next week, where it is likely to pass.

Catch up quick: David and Frederick Barclay bought the titles for £665 million in 2004. Lloyds Banking Group seized control of the publications in June over its debts.

  • Per RedBird IMI's deal, it would provide a package of loans to the Barclay family that owns the publications, including a £600 million loan against the Telegraph and Spectator, which it planned to convert into equity.
  • Other bidders for the publications have included Rupert Murdoch, The Daily Mail owner DMGT, GB News investor Sir Paul Marshall, UnHerd Ventures and German media group Axel Springer.
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