The investment fund that has reportedly reached an agreement to buy the Telegraph Media Group has stakes in several oil and gas companies, DeSmog can report.
U.S.-based RedBird Capital has entered into a joint venture to take control of The Telegraph alongside International Media Investments (IMI) of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The two groups have reportedly agreed to provide loans to The Telegraph’s existing owners, the Barclay family, to allow them to pay off their £1.16 billion debt to Lloyds Banking Group. The family lost control of The Telegraph and the Spectator magazine, which is also part of the media group, earlier this year due to this outstanding debt.
News reports suggest that the deal is being backed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who serves as the deputy prime minister of the UAE, the head of its state-owned investment company, and the owner of Manchester City football club.
Conservative MPs have voiced concerns over the potential purchase and the danger of foreign influence, asking the UK government to use national security laws to investigate the agreement. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has echoed these concerns, warning that the deal could undermine “free expression of opinion” and prevent the “accurate presentation of the news”.
The UAE is a petrostate that has the world’s largest oil expansion plans. The state-owned energy company, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), intends to increase its oil production by more than any other fossil fuel firm in the world, according to data from the Global Oil and Gas Exit List (Gogel). Adnoc said that Gogel’s data and assumptions were “incorrect and misleading” but has not provided its own figures.
RedBird-IMI has said that, under its proposal, The Telegraph and Spectator will be managed by RedBird Capital “alone” and IMI would be a “passive investor”.
RedBird Capital trades in a number of core investment sectors, including energy. The firm’s website states that it holds investments in at least six fossil fuel firms: Aethon United, CapturePoint, FireBird Energy, Four Corners Petroleum, Lambda Energy Resources, and Tally Energy Services.
All of these companies are based in the U.S., with a majority operating in Texas.
Aethon United was listed by Enverus Intelligence Research as one of the most prolific private oil and gas producers in the U.S. in 2023. It was reported in 2022 that the firm was considering a public listing that would value it at more than $10 billion.
CapturePoint specialises in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), a favoured technology of the fossil fuel industry that it claims will help to limit global warming. The RedBird website claims that CapturePoint is “building out a carbon capture network on the Gulf Coast and in the Midwest”.
There is limited evidence of the efficacy of CCUS at scale. DeSmog recently analysed 12 large-scale CCUS projects around the world and found countless missed carbon capture targets, as well as cost overruns, with taxpayers picking up the tab via billions of dollars in subsidies. Meanwhile, captured carbon is often merely used to extract more oil.
“If this deal goes through, it will pollute our press and the UK’s fight against climate breakdown,” Alexander Kirk, fossil fuels campaigner at Global Witness, told DeSmog.
RedBird Capital also holds an investment in Majority Strategies, a political strategy firm that claims to have worked for every official Republican presidential nominee since 2000. Majority Strategies received more than $27 million during the 2022 election cycle, including $9.2 million from the Republican Senate Leadership Fund.
Responding to media speculation about The Telegraph’s future ownership, the paper’s editor Chris Evans sent an internal memo earlier this week. Seen by Politico Playbook, the memo read: “You’ve been asking me how we can be confident that editorial independence would be protected. At the moment I know no more than you will have read.”
Polly Truscott, a foreign policy adviser at Amnesty International UK, told The Times that: “Any Emirati state ownership of the Telegraph may have serious implications for press freedom in the UK and should be carefully scrutinised by the government. In the UAE, anyone who dares to speak out against the Emirati authorities is likely to be at serious risk.”
The UAE ranks 145 out of 180 in the 2023 Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders.
Other sources claim that the bidding process for The Telegraph and the Spectator is still ongoing and that no deal has been finalised. Paul Marshall, the co-owner of GB News, is also reportedly interested in buying the titles. DeSmog revealed in October that Marshall’s hedge fund has $2 billion in fossil fuel investments.
RedBird Capital and the Telegraph Media Group did not respond to our request for comment.
A new DeSmog analysis has found that eight in 10 opinion pieces from The Telegraph on environmental issues downplay the climate crisis.
Our analysis, for the six months ending 16 October, found that of the 171 articles covering environmental issues, 85 percent were identified as “anti-green” – attacking climate policy, downplaying climate science and ridiculing environmental groups.
Of the 1,930 opinion pieces published by the paper during this period, nearly one in five (17.6 percent) featured an attack on climate science, policy or environmental groups. Ten writers linked to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the UK’s leading climate science denial group, wrote a total of 144 opinion pieces for The Telegraph during the period.
World leaders next week gather in Dubai, UAE, to negotiate how to reduce emissions and limit global warming. The COP28 summit is being led by Sultan Al Jaber, the chief executive of Adnoc, which is the world’s 11th largest oil and gas producer. Al Jaber has claimed that fossil fuels should “continue to play a role in the foreseeable future” – a statement labelled as “very dangerous” by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.
The UAE has also attempted to emphasise the importance of CCUS in capturing emissions. However, according to an analysis by Global Witness, based on Adnoc’s carbon capture plans, it would take 343 years for the firm to capture all the CO2 emissions it will produce in just the next six years. This week, the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition also revealed that at least 7,200 fossil fuel lobbyists have attended UN-led climate over the last 20 years.
Total trade between the UK and UAE exceeded £25 billion in the year ending Q2 2023, an increase of 47.3 percent compared to the year before. The Gulf state has also pledged to invest £10 billion in “priority” UK industries.
In the year following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the UK imported £2.5 billion in fossil fuels from the UAE. The average monthly value of fossil fuel imports from the UAE increased from £84.4 million in the year to February 2022, to £195 million the year after.
In total, UK fossil fuel imports from authoritarian petrostates surged to £19.3 billion in the year following the invasion – an increase of more than 60 percent.