Jeff Zucker, the former president of CNN, is vying to take over Britain’s Daily Telegraph in what would be a triumphant return to the media after he was forced from his role at the American cable news network last year.
Zucker is CEO of an investment firm called RedBird IMI, a joint venture backed by an Abu Dhabi-based investment group. RedBird said this week it had put forward a bid to take control of the conservative-leaning newspaper and its sister magazine, The Spectator. The two properties, both powerful presences in the British media landscape, were seized by Lloyds Banking Group earlier this year after failing to pay their debts.
Though a deal hasn’t been finalized, if RedBird succeeds, it would place Zucker at the helm of both properties, marking his return as a media titan. The New York Times reported that Zucker’s vision for the properties include an expansion into the U.S., with the Telegraph established as a center-right media outlet.
He does not plan to relocate to London to oversee the media organization, and the Times added that he didn’t plan to oversee day-to-day coverage. The Abu Dhabi investment firm would remain a passive investor, RedBird IMI said.
The auction for the Telegraph and Spectator was paused on Tuesday after the proposal, which relies on about $1.4 billion in financing, is reviewed by Lloyds. Lawmakers in the U.K. will also need to review the ownership proposal since it would be led by an American and funded by an Emirati investment firm.
Members of Britain’s Conservative Party recently wrote to regulators warning that the RedBird proposal “represents a potential threat to press freedom in this country,” The Financial Times reported.
“Material influence over a quality national newspaper being passed to a foreign ruler at any time should raise concerns, but given the current geopolitical context, such a deal must be investigated,” the group wrote.
Zucker resigned from his role at CNN in early 2022 after he failed to disclose a romantic relationship with another senior executive at the network. His departure was a cataclysmic shift in the media landscape and ended his nine-year tenure at the helm of one of the nation’s largest news companies.