A bid by an Arab American group, fronted by Jeff Zucker, the former CNN president, to buy The Telegraph is under scrutiny. That might leave an opening for a right-wing investor.
The Daily Telegraph has long been viewed as the house paper of Britain’s Conservative Party. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that a takeover battle for the 168-year-old paper has mutated into a political struggle within the Tory ranks — one that some commentators have gone so far as to cast as a contest for the party’s future.
On one side is an Arab American group trying to complete its acquisition of the Telegraph Media Group. It is fronted by Jeff Zucker, a former president of CNN, and is backed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, the vice president of the United Arab Emirates and a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi.
On the other side is a would-be spoiler, Paul Marshall, a right-wing hedge-fund founder who has bankrolled GB News, an upstart television news channel that has emerged as a kind of aspiring Fox News, giving a platform to far-right Tory lawmakers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and populist firebrands like Nigel Farage.
Mr. Zucker’s group, RedBird IMI, has been seeking regulatory approval for its acquisition of The Telegraph and its sister commentary magazine, The Spectator. But objections to permitting a foreign state entity — one with a dubious record on press freedom and protecting civil liberties — to take control of one of Britain’s most influential papers have bogged down those efforts.
On Friday, the British government put off a decision on whether to greenlight or block the deal, under which The Telegraph’s previous owners, the Barclay brothers, transferred control of the company to RedBird IMI in return for its paying off 1.16 billion pounds ($1.47 billion) in Barclay debt.
Analysts said the delay, until March 11, could help the Emirati-backed group make a stronger case that it would be a responsible, hands-off owner. It has submitted a new corporate structure, which emphasizes that the Emiratis would be passive investors. But the government’s review of this structure could also give Mr. Marshall time to drum up support for a competing bid.