Ousted CNN boss Jeff Zucker wants to make another foray into the news business and is proposing to buy up a bankrupt British publishing group.
Zucker, chairman of investment group RedBird IMI, has reportedly agreed to pay about $750 million to the Barclay family – owners of the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine – to help them repay their nearly $1.4 billion in debt towards Lloyds Banking Group.
RedBird would then have the opportunity to convert the loan secured by the publications into equity, Financial Times reported on Monday.
The other part of the debt financing would come from International Media Investments – the investment vehicle backed by Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan – hedged against other Barclay family companies and commercial interests, the FT reported.
These assets include retail and financial services group Very.
Lloyds seized the publications in June from the Barclay brothers Sir David and Sir Frederick, who bought the titles from Conrad Black for $1.3 billion in 2004.
If Lloyds agrees to the proposal, the deal will mean the end of the Barclay family’s ownership of The Telegraph, a conservative broadsheet founded in 1855, and The Spectator, which has been published weekly since 1828.
“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 vital to protecting their reputation and credibility,” a representative said by RedBird IMI the PressGazette.
“We welcome the opportunity to support the titles’ existing management to expand the titles’ reach in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries,” added the representative of Zucker’s Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund.
A deal would end months of speculation about a sale to potential bidders that included Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust, David Montgomery’s National World, German publisher Axel Springer (before he withdrew) and GB News investor Sir Paul Marshall.
Any transfer of ownership will be subject to regulatory scrutiny, particularly as fears grow in the UK about the UAE’s potential influence on British publications.
A group of Conservative MPs called for “close scrutiny” of the deal in a letter to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.
In a letter published in Bloomberg Over the weekend they wrote: “The material impact of handing over a high-quality national newspaper to a foreign ruler should be a concern at any time, but given the current geopolitical context, such a deal needs to be investigated.”
Zucker, who was fired from CNN in 2022 for failing to disclose his relationship with a colleague, was looking for deals. Last month, RedBird IMI acquired a minority stake in online newsletter Front Office Sports.
Zucker also reportedly had his eye on other media companies, including the Washington Post, Semafor, Puck and Air Mail – the media company founded by former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
He has not yet announced any deals on these properties.
Zucker also recently said he would be interested in buying CNN if parent company Warner Bros. Discovery put the cable news channel up for sale. The Post first reported the news in June.