Jeff Zucker’s Redbird IMI Takeover of Telegraph Stalled Amid UK Culture Minister Probe

The Jeff Zucker-led effort to take control of the U.K.’s Telegraph Group was stalled Friday after tweaks to the plan prompted another government probe into the deal. The CEO of the influential conservative publication also stepped down Friday, according to multiple reports.

Nick Hugh, who ran Telegraph Media Group and its parent company Press Acquisitions since 2017, was replaced by Anna Jones, the former chief executive of the U.K. publisher of Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Esquire, The Guardian reported.

Hugh’s departure came as the U.K. government prepares to investigate the complex deal Zucker’s Redbird IMI struck with the current owners, the Barclay family, for a second time.

Among the concerns is that Redbird gets much of its financing from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the vice president of the UAE and the owner of Manchester City football club, which raises worries of foreign influence in U.K. media coverage.

Reuters reported that last minute changes in the deal prompted the new probe.

Redbird IMI, formed in late 2022 by the former CNN CEO, has already paid roughly $1.5 billion in debt owed by the Barclays to Lloyd’s ahead of the takeover. It was then expected to take over The Telegraph and its sister publication, The Spectator magazine, but that was “halted by the government on public interest grounds,” Reuters reported.

A cabinet minister and dozens of lawmakers oppose the takeover by Redbird, according to The Telegraph . A group of lawmakers warned the government against the deal, saying, “the UAE’s increasingly influential position as a mediator and power-broker” created a risk of interference in British politics, according to Reuters.

Culture Minister Lucy Frazer was miffed by a change made Tuesday to the corporate structure through which Redbird IMI plans to take control of the titles, the report said.

“This change was made in order to clarify the point that IMI is a passive investor in the company that will own The Telegraph and as such will have no management or editorial involvement whatsoever in the title,” a company spokesperson told Reuters.

The titles will now be owned by a new English registered company in which RedBird IMI is a limited partner, the report said.

The change prompted Frazer to renew concerns about the deal on public interest grounds, and start a new probe that gave the Barclays and RedBird IMI until next Thursday to explain.

“I have noted the very late stage in the process at which information about this new corporate structure has been shared and implemented,” Frazer said in a written statement to parliament. “I do not consider this is conducive to the full and proper functioning of the process.”

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