Jeff Zucker may have been ousted at CNN, but to little avail. The temporary effort to fix CNN, led by Stephen Colbert’s guy, of all people, failed when he too was ousted, and the airport news network looks much like it did under Zucker.
Meanwhile, Zucker has managed to seize control of The Telegraph.
Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund RedBird IMI has said it is set to take control of the Telegraph and Spectator publications after agreeing loans to repay debts owed by their previous owners, the Barclay family.
A spokesman for RedBird IMI, which is led by former CNN president Jeff Zucker, said: “RedBird IMI, a joint venture between RedBird Capital of the US and International Media Investments of Abu Dhabi, has reached an agreement to provide a package of loans to the Barclay family allowing them to pay off their debt to Lloyds Bank in full and bring the Telegraph and Spectator out of receivership.
“Following transfer of ownership, RedBird Capital alone will take over management and operational responsibility for the titles under the leadership of RedBird IMI chief executive Jeff Zucker.
So Zucker’s people will get to control key British conservative publications which will likely remain so, on behalf of a fund operating out of the Middle East. Redbird’s president is former CNN Worldwide Commercial President Rani Raad.
Not everyone in the UK is happy about this.
Senior UK ministers including Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat, who both attend Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, have raised concerns within government about the possibility of foreign ownership of the Telegraph, according to people familiar with the matter.
Badenoch and Tugendhat have flagged the issue with Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer, the people said, as pressure mounts from backbench lawmakers for the government to intervene in the process.
The alternative to Zucker/Abu Dhabi could be a sale to American conservatives.
US billionaire and major Republican donor Ken Griffin and hedge fund manager Paul Marshall have discussed a potential bid, people familiar with the matter have said previously. Middle Eastern investors have held talks with Daily Mail & General Trust Plc about supporting potential offers from the rival news publisher.
But the argument is that Jeff Zucker running the conservative media companies won’t mean foreign control. It will mean extremely lefty control. If a conservative media company were on the verge of taking over The Guardian, all the stops would be pulled out. The question is will Sunak’s weak-kneed government let this happen?
I wouldn’t take out bets against it.