Abu Dhabi-backed group ends bid to take over Telegraph newspaper

The move comes after the UK said it would bring forward legislation to block such state-backed takeover deals in media.

RedBird IMI had announced in November that it would take control of the Telegraph Media Group [File: Luke MacGregor/Reuters]Published On 30 Apr 202430 Apr 2024

An Abu Dhabi-backed group planning to take over Britain’s Telegraph Media Group (TMG) has said it will withdraw after the UK government moved to block the deal.

RedBird IMI, a joint venture between US firm RedBird Capital and Abu Dhabi’s International Media Investments, struck a 1.2 billion-pound ($1.5bn) deal with TMG’s previous owners, the Barclay family, in November.

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The agreement, which has faced opposition over its potential impact on free speech given Abu Dhabi’s press freedom record, saw RedBird IMI pay off bank debts in exchange for control of the media group.

However, last month the United Kingdom’s government said it would bring forward legislation to block such state-backed takeover deals in the industry, while Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer also considered a full regulatory probe.

The regulatory hurdles appear to have prompted RedBird IMI to now abandon the endeavour to own and control TMG, which also includes The Spectator magazine.

“RedBird IMI has today confirmed that it intends to withdraw from its proposed acquisition of the Telegraph Media Group and proceed with a sale,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We continue to believe this approach would have benefited the Telegraph and Spectator’s readers, their journalists and the UK media landscape more widely.

“Regrettably, it is clear this approach is no longer feasible.”

RedBird IMI said it now plans to bring certainty to employees and readers of the publications by seeking new owners for the titles.

It said the titles “remain highly attractive” to potential suitors, with speculation they could be sold separately or as a package.

‘Cornerstone’

Frazer said she had acted to “ensure that media freedom was protected while there was an investigation into those concerns”.

“I will now allow the parties to conduct an orderly transition and I will monitor the outcome with a view to taking any further regulatory action as required,” she added.

“The free press is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we cannot take it for granted.”

Frazer noted the government would continue to intervene “where necessary to protect the integrity and independence of these publications, given the unique role they play in our democracy”.

RedBird IMI’s original ownership plans sparked an uproar in some British media circles, including among some lawmakers in the ruling Conservative Party.

It has long enjoyed a close ideological relationship with the right-leaning Telegraph titles.

The Spectator – once edited by former Tory prime minister and Brexit figurehead Boris Johnson – is widely considered the “Tory bible”.

Redbird IMI is majority-owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice president of the United Arab Emirates and owner of Manchester City Football Club. It is run by former CNN president Jeff Zucker.

Source: News Agencies