U.K. Opens Inquiry Into Jeff Zucker’s Emirati-Backed Bid for The Telegraph

Jeff Zucker’s re-entry into the global news business has hit a snag.

The British government said on Thursday that it would open a review of a pending deal to put Mr. Zucker, the former president of CNN, in control of The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, a pair of London’s most prestigious publications.

The announcement capped a week of growing outcry in Westminster over Mr. Zucker’s use of roughly $1 billion in Emirati money to acquire the news organizations, which are hugely influential in British conservative politics. Tories lined up to denounce the proposed deal, warning that the Emiratis’ involvement could lead to undue foreign influence over The Telegraph’s coverage.

The review, announced by Britain’s culture secretary, does not necessarily end Mr. Zucker’s chance of success. But it could delay the deal by several months and allow time for rival bidders, including moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, owner of The Daily Mail, to build public opposition to the sale.

Mr. Murdoch and others were taken aback last week when Mr. Zucker emerged as the unlikely leading candidate to secure control of The Telegraph, which went up for sale this year after its longtime British owners defaulted on a loan. Since then, Conservative Party eminences have lined up to denounce his bid — often in essays published by newspapers controlled by Mr. Zucker’s rivals — and Tory members of Parliament urged regulators to consider the constraints on press freedoms in the Middle East.

Mr. Zucker flew to London this week to argue his case, pledging that he would preserve the editorial independence of the Telegraph’s newsroom and insisting that his financial partner, the Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, was a passive investor who would have no say in editorial matters. “I would resign” over any suggestion of Emirati influence, Mr. Zucker told The Telegraph in an interview.

The government’s review of the deal is expected to conclude by late January. The culture secretary said the review would encompass questions about “the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression of opinion in newspapers.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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