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“Quite The Hypocrite”: Jeff Zucker Lashes Out At British Broadcaster Andrew Neil & GB News Co-Owner Paul Marshall Over RedBird IMI’s Proposed Deal For Telegraph Newspapers

Jeff Zucker did not hold back today in taking on some of Britain’s biggest media stalwarts as RedBird IMI pushes on with its bid to buy The Telegraph and Spectator publications.

Speaking to The News Agents podcast, the former CNN boss hit out at Andrew Neil, chair of The Spectator, and Paul Marshall, co-owner of right-leaning news network GB News, who has made a rival bid for The Tele.

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Zucker blasted GB News founder Neil as “quite the hypocrite” after alleging that Neil had been interested in becoming chair of a combined Editorial Trust Board for The Telegraph and Spectator, which RedBird IMI turned down.

“And ever since that day, he’s been one of our most vocal critics,” Zucker said. “And I think that says all you need to know about Andrew Neil. And since I am sure that he’s going to deny this and pretend that didn’t happen, and make all kinds of threats, let me be very clear about something. He did not make that request just of me; I am not the only one that he had that conversation with.”

Pressed on whether Neil wanted to be at the heart of the RedBird IMI deal, Zucker added: “He did. I’m not making an accusation; accusations are things that aren’t true. What I’m telling you is a true story of what happened.”

Responding, Neil, a former BBC News and Channel 4 anchor, said Zucker’s “memory is playing tricks on him” and denied ever suggesting the combined chair role.

Abu Dhabi-backed RedBird IMI, which is buying The Traitors super-indie All3Media for $1.45B and just took a stake in Media Res, has been trying to acquire The Telegraph for months but has faced regulatory stumbling blocks and constant pushback over free press concerns. Most recently, RedBird IMI told ministers it will establish a new UK-based holding company for The Telegraph titles following weeks of complaints from parliamentarians and journalists.

Zucker attempted to put to bed questions around free speech and independence, telling interviewer Jon Sopel that The Telegraph will have “full independence to cover whatever story they feel is necessary” including if it were to be about the UAE. He criticized “folks in parliament” for having a “fundamental misunderstanding of really what this deal is,” adding: “This is not the UAE government that is buying The Telegraph.”

Paul Marshall “unfit” for newspaper buy

Alongside a consortium of investors including U.S. billionaire Ken Griffin, GB News’ Marshall is also in The Telegraph Race. Zucker described Marshall as “unfit to own a newspaper” following a News Agents investigation that found he had engaged with extremist content on X. GB News has been in the spotlight this week after being rapped by the regulator once again, this time over Laurence Fox’s misogynistic rant, with star presenter Dan Wootton quitting.

Zucker added: “We are clearly the best option for the Telegraph and The Spectator, and the only ones who have said that we will come along, and we will invest at a time when media is under tremendous duress.”

RedBird IMI is 75%-owned by Abu Dhabi and was formed in 2022. RedBird Capital, which owns the other share, has a roster including Skydance Media, the YES Network, and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Artists Equity. RedBird IMI also teamed with Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia to buy the XFL out of bankruptcy.

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