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

The vessel for Mr. Zucker’s bid is RedBird IMI, the media venture company he founded last year as a joint venture between RedBird Capital, an American private equity firm, and International Media Investments, an Abu Dhabi-based investment fund. In a maneuver that caught rivals off-guard, RedBird IMI said it would directly pay off the debt of The Telegraph’s owners, which short-circuited an open auction for the publications that was already underway.

If Mr. Zucker’s effort is ultimately blocked by regulators, the auction would resume, allowing his competitors a second chance to secure control.

Mr. Zucker, 58, was forced out of CNN last year after he failed to disclose a relationship with a colleague. A highly visible media figure for decades, Mr. Zucker became a political lightning rod because of his complex history with former President Donald J. Trump. In 2003, as president of NBC, he greenlighted Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” turning the real estate developer into a national sensation. At CNN, Mr. Zucker aired hours of unfiltered coverage of Mr. Trump’s early campaign rallies; after Mr. Trump became president, CNN was attacked by conservatives for what they deemed an anti-Trump bias.

Britons who were unfamiliar with Mr. Zucker’s track record have received a crash course this week in the pages of London newspapers, which have chronicled every twist of The Telegraph saga with their signature irreverence. The Telegraph’s own lengthy interview noted Mr. Zucker’s attitude of “rank impertinence,” and the paper illustrated the article with a giant photograph of Mr. Zucker grinning next to Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, taken during his NBC days.

If The Telegraph deal closes, Mr. Zucker, who is based in Manhattan and relishes being a part of the news business, said he was unlikely to handle day-to-day editorial matters. But he would oversee The Telegraph’s financial strategy, including a possible expansion into the United States, where Mr. Zucker said he sees a market “for a true center-right media outlet.”

“If you have a brand that has the journalistic integrity of The Telegraph and the energy that U.K. outlets have, that really is missing in the States, I think it’s a good combination,” he told The Telegraph.