UAE-backed RedBird IMI chief: Telegraph to be ‘weaker brand’ after takeover collapse

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Abu Dhabi-backed RedBird International Media Investments (IMI) CEO Rani Raad said The Telegraph will be a “weaker brand” after the company’s planned acquisition of the newspaper collapsed.

“It’s a shame that it played out the way that it did… and ultimately I think the Telegraph will be a weaker brand,” he said in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya English’s chief international correspondent Hadley Gamble during a session at the Arab Media Forum.

RedBird IMI effectively took control of the Telegraph and the Spectator magazine in December when it repaid a debt owed by then-owner the Barclay family to Lloyds Bank, including a $753 million loan against the titles.

The acquisition, however, which already faced a lengthy regulatory inquiry, was dealt a blow in March when Britain said it would stop foreign governments owning newspapers.

Noting that the deal was derailed because changes were made to it after its closure, Raad said he remained optimistic as the company is focused on selling The Telegraph and The Spectator.

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“Regulators make the rules. Lawmakers make the rules. And when we closed the Telegraph deal, the rules were changed after the fact,” he said.

“We are now focused on selling The Telegraph and The Spectator. We will sell it at a premium. We will make our money back and then some and move on to other markets and focus on other opportunities.”

He added that he believes the collapse of the takeover will affect The Telegraph more than IMI.

“What my fear is that what has happened with The Telegraph will cost the Telegraph employees and the UK government more than it will cost us over here.”

During the session, Raad, the former president of CNN International Commercial, also commented on the media scene particularly recent challenges faced by the American network which recently hit a 30-year low in primetime ratings.

“Don’t discount CNN,” Raad said adding that the sector is going through a drastic transformation.

“I think what they need to do is triangulate how to serve a new audience of news consumers.”

Raad also said that CNN needs to adapt to the evolving preferences of modern audiences, adding that while the network’s recent performance is concerning, there is potential for reinvention and growth.

“CNN is a very, very powerful news brand globally. Ultimately, if they find a way to make that transition, to talk to a broader demographic, it’ll be here for a long, long time,” he said.

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