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Telegraph boss quits as UK lawmakers probe UAE-backed takeover

By AFP

January 27, 2024 01:06 AM


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The head of Britain's Telegraph Media Group has stepped down, the company announced on Friday, as the government probes its contentious proposed takeover by a United Arab Emirates-backed fund.

TMG and parent company Press Acquisitions Limited said that chief executive officer Nick Hugh, in the post since 2017, had left his role with immediate effect.

Anna Jones will become first female boss of the group, whose titles include The Daily and Sunday Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine.

The announcement came on the day the regulators were supposed to have submitted a review to the government laying out the potential impact of the attempted takeover by RedBird IMI.

But the deadline was pushed back to March 11 after RedBird IMI announced earlier this week that it had modified plans on the structure of the holding that would control the media group.

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

The agreement saw RedBird IMI pay off bank debts in exchange for control of the media group.

The announcement sparked uproar in British media circles and the UK government quickly launched a formal probe into the sale on public interest grounds.

The Competition and Markets Authority regulator was asked to look into "jurisdictional and competition matters" in the deal.

Media regulator Ofcom was asked to report back on "the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression of opinion in newspapers".

The takeover plans have sparked concern among some lawmakers in the ruling Conservative party, which has long enjoyed a close ideological relationship with the right-leaning Telegraph titles.

They have also sparked consternation among staff and freedom of press activists.

On Thursday, Spectator chairman Andrew Neil urged ministers to block the deal and said he would quit his role if the takeover goes ahead.

"My main concern is that the people bankrolling this are the UAE, the United Arab Emirates," he told BBC television.

"They are a government, and the idea that government should own newspapers and magazines in Britain I think is absurd.

"But they are not just a government, they are an undemocratic government. They are a dictatorship."

Redbird IMI is majority-owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice president of UAE and owner of Manchester City Football Club.

It is run by former CNN president Jeff Zucker.

Zucker has said that Mansour would be a "passive investor" and said the takeover was "American-led".

 

 


AFP


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