Already a member? Log In

Zucker’s Structure Wrinkle & OpenAI Open Questions

Not only would a Jeff Zucker deal potentially kill the auction for the publications, it might also allow RedBird IMI to get the assets more cheaply than if they were bid up in a formal process.
Not only would a Jeff Zucker deal potentially kill the auction for the publications, it might also allow RedBird IMI to get the assets more cheaply than if they were bid up in a formal process. Photo: Ogut/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
November 29, 2023

Earlier this month, as loyal readers well know, Jeff Zucker’s RedBird IMI fund tendered a clever debt-for-equity offer to acquire The Telegraph and The Spectator by simply offering to pay down the roughly $1.4 billion of debt to Lloyds Bank that Sir Frederick Barclay, who owned the publications with his late twin brother, defaulted on earlier this year. This surprising bid froze the auction, run by Goldman Sachs, that featured all the usual suspects and added a new wrinkle to the most compelling British media-finance story in ages, at least since both the Financial Times and The Economist traded hands last decade. 

Much of the resultant kerfuffle, at least in London, has coalesced around the sourcing of the capital. Zucker’s partners at RedBird IMI are, of course, not only former Goldman banker Gerry Cardinale, the founder and C.E.O. of RedBird (Cardinale = red bird, duh…) but also Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, an Emirati royal. The prospect of foreign ownership of two British periodicals has kicked up some vague notions about the dangers of foreign ownership—concerns that Zucker recently tried to dispel in an interview with The Telegraph, itself. But that’s much less interesting to me than the structure and strategy of Zucker’s offer.