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Lord Zucker’s M&A Do-Over & Trump Bankruptcy Options

jeff zucker
By all appearances, the British Parliament is putting the kibosh on Jeff Zucker’s bid to take control of The Spectator and The Telegraph. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
March 20, 2024

By most objective measures, Jeff Zucker has had a pretty good run at RedBird IMI, his new private equity fund, following his exile from CNN. In the last year, since the formation of the partnership between himself, former Goldman banker Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, an Emirati royal, Zucker has committed some $1.6 billion to six deals, including an investment in Media Res, the Hollywood production studio founded by former HBO executive Michael Ellenberg, and it’s about to close a $1.45 billion deal for All3Media, the U.K. production company behind such hits as Fleabag and Squid Game: The Challenge.

Then there is Zucker’s other U.K. deal, the one for The Telegraph and The Spectator, which is not going nearly as well. It’s not official official yet, but it looks pretty certain that Parliament will be concocting a fast-tracked amendment to a current law, the spirit of which is to prevent any foreign government—or entity associated with a foreign government—from owning a British newspaper or magazine. And so while Zucker is still waiting for the precise language of the amendment, it’s likely that the gist of the new legislation will nuke his deal, since obviously the Sheikh is an Emirati royal and therefore is associated with a foreign government. Unfair, perhaps, but not all that dissimilar to the rule that prevents a foreign company from owning a U.S. broadcast network, or the proposed law that would require ByteDance to divest TikTok. Zucker and the deal team at RedBird IMI knew this was the dynamite stick in the deal all along—so no surprises here but still an unfortunate outcome for Mr. Zucker…