Chairman and Chief Editor
Bedour Ibrahim

RedBird IMI’s exit raises the prospect of a bidding war

RedBird IMI Kicks Off Sale of Telegraph After UK Backlash

Tuesday 30/April/2024 - 08:23 PM
أصول مصر

After a bruising few months، UAE-backed investor RedBird IMI is withdrawing from its attempt to acquire the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine، and will look to sell on its rights to the British outlets.

The auction for the options over the media assets begins Tuesday and bidders have already approached the group with expressions of interest، RedBird IMI said in a statement on Tuesday. RedBird IMI said it would focus on securing the best possible value for the assets، “which remain highly attractive.”

The decision comes after a backlash from members of the UK government، who objected to RedBird IMI’s connections with the United Arab Emirates. This ultimately forced Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government to pledge an effective ban on foreign states and their officials acquiring print news media in the UK. The investor is a joint venture between RedBird Capital Partners and UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s IMI.

The longest editorial protections

“Our ownership would have seen the strongest editorial protections ever put forward for a UK newspaper، along with much-needed investment،” RedBird IMI said in the statement. “We continue to believe this approach would have benefited the Telegraph and Spectator’s readers، their journalists and the UK media landscape more widely.”

RedBird IMI’s exit raises the prospect of a bidding war as some of the biggest figures in UK media jostle to control the titles، which are historically intertwined with the upper echelons of the British Conservative Party. The Spectator is the world’s oldest weekly magazine still in print while the Daily Telegraph dates back to 1855 and claims the scoop for the outbreak of World War II.

The sale of the Telegraph is expected to attract bidders including rival publisher Daily Mail & General Trust Plc and hedge fund manager Paul Marshall. National World Plc، the company behind the Yorkshire Post، has also expressed an interest in buying the Telegraph.

The Spectator magazine will also be up for grabs، and is expected to attract interest from parties including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The UK’s Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said in a statement that the government would “now allow the parties to conduct an orderly transition.” It would “monitor the outcome with a view to taking any further regulatory action،” she added.

It is still feasible the sale process straddles the upcoming general election in Britain، which is expected to take place in the second half of this year. In the meantime، the current government is drawing up the details of how it intends to limit foreign state ownership of UK media titles.

A victory for Labour — which leads in current opinion polls — would leave a new government with a decision on whether to pursue a similarly hard line against the involvement of the UAE. “The big question is timetable،” Spectator editor Fraser Nelson، who opposed the RedBird takeover، posted on the social media site X on Tuesday، arguing there was “no need” for the auction to take longer than the summer.