Jeff Zucker’s RedBird IMI agrees to deal with Telegraph and Spectator publications

Ousted CNN chief Jeff Zucker made another foray into the news business by agreeing to pay $1.4 billion to take over a bankrupt British publishing group on Monday.

Zucker’s investment group, RedBird IMI, will take control of the Telegraph and Spectator publications under a deal to pay off the Barclay family’s debt to Lloyds Banking Group.

International Media Investments, the investment vehicle backed by Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will also participate in about half of the debt financing of the deal, the company said.

Lloyds Banking Group took over the UK newspaper group last summer.

RedBird IMI said that if the deal went ahead, it intended to exercise an option to convert the debt into ownership of the newspaper group at “an early opportunity”.

If Lloyds accepts the proposal, the deal will mark the end of the Barclay family’s ownership of national newspapers after two decades.

Zucker’s RedBird IMI agreed to take control of the Telegraph and Spectator publications under a deal to pay off the Barclay family’s debt to Lloyds Banking Group.
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The lender asked a British Virgin Islands court to postpone until early December a hearing that could have liquidated the Barclay family’s last holding company, according to a report Financial times report on Monday.

The outlet reported that it is still conducting a separate auction process to sell the newspaper and its sister publication, Spectator magazine.

As part of the deal, Abu-Dhabi-backed IMI would take a significant debt stake in the last remaining major commercial assets owned by the Barclay family. This includes retail and financial services group Very, the Financial Times said, citing sources familiar with the discussions.

The deal will be structured as a loan of approximately $750.3 million secured against Telegraph and Spectator. IMI will provide a loan of a similar amount secured against the Barclay family’s other businesses and business interests.

RedBird would then have the option to convert the loan secured against Telegraph and Spectator into equity.

A deal would put Zucker in charge of British publications the Daily Telegraph and Spectator.
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However, any transfer of ownership will be subject to regulatory review.

Assuming all goes as planned, RedBird Capital will assume management and operational responsibility for the securities under the leadership of RedBird IMI CEO Zucker, the company said.

“RedBird IMI is fully committed to maintaining the existing editorial team of the Telegraph and Spectator publications, and believes that the editorial independence of these titles is essential to protect their reputation and credibility,” a RedBird IMI representative said. the Press Gazette.

“We are excited by the opportunity to support the current management of the titles to expand the reach of the titles in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries,” the representative added.

The statement aims to allay fears about the UAE’s influence on British newspapers. Recently, a group of Conservative MPs wrote to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden urging “close scrutiny” of the deal.

News of a possible deal with UAE-backed RedBird IMI prompted some members of the British Parliament to warn of influence over their news organisations.
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in a letter first published on Bloombergthey wrote over the weekend: “Material influence over a quality national newspaper being passed to a foreign ruler at any time should raise concern, but given the current geopolitical context, such a deal should be investigated.”

The deal will end months of speculation about a sale to potential bidders including Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust, David Montgomery’s National World, German publisher Axel Springer (before he retired) and GB News investor , Sir Paul Marshall.

The Barclay brothers, Sir David and Sir Frederick, bought the Telegraph and Spectator titles from Conrad Black in 2004 for $1.3 billion.

While at RedBird, IMI Zucker focused on news and sports offerings and recently purchased a minority stake in Front Office Sports.

Lloyds Banking Group confiscated their securities in June.

Zucker, who was ousted from CNN in 2022 after failing to disclose his relationship with a co-worker, has been seeking settlements. Last month, Zucker acquired a minority stake in the online newsletter Front Office Sports.

He had also reportedly been eyeing other media properties, including the Washington Post, Semafor, Puck and Air Mail, the media company founded by former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.

It has yet to announce any deals with those properties.

Zucker also recently said he would be interested in buying CNN if its parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, put the cable news network up for sale. The Post first reported the news in June.

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