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UK regulator likely to review Telegraph bid

Lucy Frazer is likely to conduct a public interest test on the Telegraph bid Reuters
Lucy Frazer, UK secretary of state for culture media and sport
  • RedBird among bidders
  • ‘Public interest’ concerns
  • Telegraph Group has £1.1bn debt

Lucy Frazer, UK secretary of state for culture media and sport, has written to an Abu Dhabi-backed consortium warning that that she is likely to subject its bid for a leading British newspaper group to a public interest test. 

RedBird IMI, led by Jeff Zucker, a former president of CNN, has submitted a bid for the centre-right Telegraph Media Group (TMG) under which it will pay off around £1.1bn in debt owed to Lloyds Banking Group by the Barclay family, the newspaper’s former owners. 

In return, RedBird would obtain equity in the Telegraph and the Spectator, an influential weekly magazine.

RedBird IMI is partly funded by International Media Investments of the UAE, which owns newspaper The National, Sky News Arabiya and Al-Ain News. 

Frazer said on Wednesday that she had written to RedBird IMI, the Barclay family and Lloyds Bank indicating she may refer the bid to UK media regulator Ofcom, and the Competition and Markets Authority. 

Frazer said that she was using powers under section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002, citing the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression. 

For its part, RedBird IMI has said that it is committed to maintaining the existing editorial teams at the newspaper and the magazine.

Lloyds took control of TMG in June and has put the titles up for auction. Other bidders include Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail Trust and Sir Paul Marshall, a British financier who has put together a consortium including hedge fund manager Ken Griffin.   

Will Lewis, a former Telegraph editor and chief executive of Dow Jones, who was also bidding, has now joined the Washington Post

TMG reported turnover for 2022 up 4 percent year on year to £254m and profit before tax up 32 percent to £39m. 

Subscriptions in 2022 were up 2 percent overall to 734,000 with digital-only subs up 8 percent to 587,000. 

The auction process is due to complete by the end of the first quarter of next year.

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