Barclays take back Telegraph after debt is repaid
By Claire Ellicott Whitehall Editor
THE Barclay family regained ownership of the Telegraph yesterday after it repaid £1.2billion that it owed to Lloyds.
The bank confirmed that it had received the money after seizing control of the newspaper group over an unpaid debt.
However, the next stage of the deal – giving control to the Abu Dhabi-backed fund RedBird IMI – is on hold after the Government said it would investigate. This means the Barclays will not retake control, with any changes in management or the removal of key editorial staff blocked until the conclusion of the probe.
Tory MPs have raised concerns about the sale of the group to the investment fund backed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice president of the United Arab Emirates and owner of Manchester City FC.
They warn the sale should be blocked due to concerns about press freedom and the influence of a foreign government with ties to China. Under the deal, the fund would take control of the Telegraph titles and Spectator magazine after agreeing to pay off the debt owed by the Barclay family to Lloyds.
Yesterday, Lloyds said the debt of Penultimate Investments Holding Limited (PIHL), the holding company, had been repaid, effectively ending the bank’s involvement in the saga. ‘We can confirm the repayment of the PIHL facilities has now completed,’ it said.
The Barclays had been given until yesterday to hand over the money to avoid a court hearing that would have enabled an auction to proceed. Others bidding to buy the Telegraph included The Daily Mail’s owner, DMGT.
Last week, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer asked Ofcom to launch a probe into whether the sale to RedBird IMI would affect the accurate presentation of news and free expression in the Telegraph titles. The regulator has until January 26 to report back. RedBird IMI said that it would ‘co-operate fully with the Government and regulator’.
RedBird IMI is a joint venture between RedBird Capital, a US firm, and International Media Investments, backed by Sheikh Mansour. It is led by ex-CNN executive Jeff Zucker. It has said it would be ‘fully committed to maintaining the existing editorial teams of the publications and believes that editorial independence for these titles is essential’.
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