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Culture Secretary steps in to potentially block UAE-backed Redbird's Telegraph deal on public interest grounds

The Telegraph titles will be put up for sale after Lloyds took charge (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)
The Telegraph titles will be put up for sale after Lloyds took charge (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)

The Government has stepped in to potentially block the repayment of a loan that would have allowed a UAE-backed group to take control of the Telegraph newspaper.

A group named Redbird IMI, alongside the Telegraph’s previous owners the Barclay family had agreed to repay a £1.16 billion loan to Lloyds Bank, which had taken control of the influential media property earlier this year, and regain control of the paper. Redbird also brought in former CNN boss Jeff Zucker as part of its plan.

However, questions were raised over Redbird’s funding ties to the UAE, particularly given the Telegraph’s staunch support of Israel during the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Redbird IMI is a joint venture between Redbird Capital and International Media Investments, the latter of which is controlled by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayen Al Nahyan.

Now, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer says she “will be issuing a Public Interest Intervention Notice” on the deal.

That means monopolies watchdog the CMA and media regulator  Ofcom must now provide reports on the public interest consequences of giving the group control.

Frazer said: “I reserve the right to take such further action under the Act as I consider appropriate, which may, if appropriate, include exercising my powers under section 42 of the Act in relation to any other relevant merger situation.”

That means she could block the deal.

Frazer added: “My role as the Secretary of State in this process is quasi-judicial and procedures are in place to ensure that I act independently and follow a process which is scrupulously fair, transparent and impartial.

DCMS will update Parliament only after both reports from the regulators have been received and considered.”

Other prospective bidders for the Telegraph include Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere, GB News owner Paul Marshall and local publisher National World.