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Telegraph boss exits amid Government review of Abu Dhabi-backed takeover

Nick Hugh has stepped down from the Telegraph Media Group (Telegraph Media Group/PA)
Nick Hugh has stepped down from the Telegraph Media Group (Telegraph Media Group/PA)

The boss of the Telegraph Media Group (TMG) has stepped down from the newspaper publisher, amid its proposed takeover by an Abu Dhabi-backed fund.

TMG and parent company Press Acquisitions Limited said on Friday that chief executive officer Nick Hugh has left the role immediately.

Mr Hugh, who was chief of the business since 2017, will be replaced by Anna Jones, who will become the media group’s first female boss.

Ms Jones, the former chief executive of magazine publisher Hearst UK, will be tasked with navigating the business through the turbulence of its attempted takeover by RedBird IMI.

The boardroom shake-up has been led by a board of independent directors overseeing the group as it seeks to complete the heavily criticised change in ownership.

Manchester City v Inter Milan – UEFA Champions League – Final – Ataturk Olympic Stadium
Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan owns IMI, which is the majority stakeholder of RedBird IMI (Martin Rickett/PA)

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has already triggered a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) to investigate the potential impact on press freedom if the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator were taken over by RedBird IMI as proposed.

The investment fund is majority owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice president of UAE and owner of Manchester City.

The fund announced in November it had reached a deal with previous Telegraph owners, the Barclay family, to take control of the newspaper group, and fellow publication The Spectator, by paying off debts owed to their bank, Lloyds.

Ms Frazer’s intervention over press freedom fears led to a review by media regulator Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

They were expected to have their reports to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport by Friday containing initial findings about the potential impact of the takeover.

As the public waits to hear of Ofcom and the CMA’s findings, Ms Frazer signalled this week there could be a further intervention after RedBird announced a new corporate structure.

As part of the new structure, RedBird IMI created a UK-based holding company for the Telegraph newspapers.

Officials have informed the fund that DCMS views that the restructure has created a new relevant merger situation (RMS) which could affect the current process into the potential impact of a takeover deal.

On Thursday night, Andrew Neil, the chairman of The Spectator, became the latest to rally against the potential takeover.

Daily Telegraph potential sale
The offices of the Telegraph Media Group in central London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He told BBC Newsnight: “My main concern is that the people bankrolling this are the UAE, the United Arab Emirates.

“They are a government, and the idea that government should own newspapers and magazines in Britain I think is absurd.

“But they are not just a government, they are an undemocratic government — they are a dictatorship.

“The UAE is a terribly successful place — I have done business there — but it is not a democratic government.

“We are a democracy, our publications are part of the democratic process. How could we be owned by an undemocratic government?”

He added: “The Government should be stepping in because we shouldn’t be owned by a foreign government — any kind of government, particularly a dictatorship.”

The debate over the press takeover comes as Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden used new powers to declare that there are national security risks in a UAE firm being the major shareholder in telephone operator Vodafone.