Telegraph takeover decision put back by fresh inquiry into Barclay family’s UAE-backed deal | Telegraph Media Group

A second investigation has been launched into the Barclay family’s deal to transfer control of the Telegraph newspaper group, pushing the deadline for regulators’ reports on the public interest threat it poses by more than six weeks.

The UK government moved swiftly to order the second watchdog inquiry after the Barclays’ UAE-backed consortium partner revealed a last-minute corporate structure change.

The culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, who announced the new investigation on Friday, had criticised RedBird IMI for alerting her department at a “very late stage” to the move to create a UK holding company to home the Telegraph and Spectator titles.

On Wednesday, she was forced to release a written statement saying she was “minded” to issue a new public interest intervention notice (PIIN) based on the development, two days before Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) were due to deliver the findings of the first investigation she ordered in November.

The new investigation will cover the same ground, with Ofcom tasked at looking into the implications of the deal on the need for accurate presentation of news, free expression of opinion, and a sufficient plurality of views and control of ownership. The CMA will look at any potential competition concerns.

The rerun of the investigation means that both regulators will now report back to Frazer on 11 March, when she will have to decide whether to launch a further, lengthy, in-depth investigation. However, if the reports do not find any concerns, Frazer must accept the deal.

Nevertheless, most observers expect some issues to emerge from the initial inquiries. This would mean the CMA wouldconduct an investigation with a timeline of up to 24 weeks, with the possibility of an eight-week extension if there are “special reasons”, meaning the question of new ownership of the influential rightwing Telegraph would become an issue for a new government after the general election.

RedBird IMI, which derives most of its funding from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the vice-president of the UAE and owner of Manchester City football club, is paying the £1.16bn in debts that the Barclay family owed to Lloyds bank and has said it would swiftly convert the loan to take ownership if the deal goes through.

The consortium, which is run by the former CNN chief Jeff Zucker, said the corporate structure move had not changed the “identity, nature or economic interests of the ultimate shareholders”.

RedBird IMI has said it would “remain a fully passive investor” and would not “exercise any control” over the Telegraph.

Zucker has repeatedly said the company will offer undertakings to protect the editorial and operational independence of the titles.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has appointed a new chief executive. Anna Jones, a former chief executive of the UK publisher of Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Esquire, replaces Nick Hugh, who had run Telegraph Media Group since 2017 and left with immediate effect.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.