Daily Telegraph sale linked to Partygate official

Government Official Involved in Partygate Scandal Plays Key Role in Telegraph Negotiations

A former government official, Helen MacNamara, who was embroiled in the Partygate scandal that rocked Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister, is currently playing a significant role in the ongoing negotiations for the future of The Daily Telegraph. Sky News has learned that MacNamara, who served as the former deputy cabinet secretary, is part of the advisory team for RedBird IMI, a vehicle backed by Abu Dhabi, whose efforts to acquire the prestigious broadsheet newspaper have been hindered by the government in recent weeks.

MacNamara is currently working with Robey Warshaw, the firm representing RedBird IMI in their discussions for the potential sale of the media assets. Her involvement in the process has been confirmed by sources close to the negotiations. Robey Warshaw, founded by Sir Simon Robey, is renowned for its success in handling mergers and acquisitions and is led by George Osborne, the former chancellor.

MacNamara, who left her position in Whitehall in February 2021, was a highly respected government official. She has served in various roles, including a decade-long stint at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the same ministry responsible for determining the fate of The Daily Telegraph as RedBird IMI negotiates to initiate an auction within the next few weeks.

However, her reputation was marred last year when Sue Gray, a senior civil servant at the Cabinet Office and a key member of Sir Keir Starmer’s team, published a report concluding that MacNamara had violated social distancing rules by bringing a karaoke machine to a party. During the Covid inquiry, it was also revealed that she had been the target of derogatory messages from Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s top aide, to the former Prime Minister.

After departing from the government, MacNamara joined the Premier League, where she held a prominent position in policy and corporate affairs before stepping down after two years. It is understood that she has been working with Robey Warshaw for several months now. MacNamara is no longer bound by the restrictions imposed by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments in Whitehall.

Her involvement in the Telegraph negotiations adds to the growing number of politically connected individuals who are part of the discussions about the future of the newspaper, which has traditionally been a supporter of the Conservative party. Other notable figures include Nadhim Zahawi, the former chancellor, who is advising the Telegraph’s long-standing owners, the Barclay family.

Earlier this month, Sky News reported that RedBird IMI and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were in talks to amend the statutory instrument that dictates various aspects of the Telegraph’s governance during the period when the Abu Dhabi-backed entity holds a call option that was intended to convert into ownership of the Telegraph and Spectator magazine. According to the Financial Times, an announcement regarding a feasible structure for the sale could be made in the coming days.

It is believed that RedBird IMI values The Spectator at over £100m as a “trophy asset,” but its worth may be diminished if it is sold alongside the newspapers. Sky News also recently revealed that Raine Group and Robey Warshaw have been appointed to advise on the next phase of the Telegraph’s ownership. Raine Group is best known for its involvement in high-profile deals, including those related to Manchester United and Chelsea football clubs.

RedBird IMI, a company partly owned by US-based RedBird and majority-owned by Abu Dhabi’s IMI, has refuted the concerns about its ownership of the Telegraph. The deal faced strong opposition from Telegraph journalists and members of the Conservative party from both houses of parliament. In response, RedBird IMI offered legally binding assurances to guarantee editorial freedom and restructured its bid in January to include a new UK holding company that would own the Telegraph titles and Spectator magazine.

However, the government amended legislation to prevent foreign state-connected investors from owning British national newspapers, effectively rendering the takeover impossible. Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, has expressed her intention to refer the RedBird IMI takeover of the Telegraph titles to the Competition and Markets Authority for an in-depth inquiry.

The future of The Daily Telegraph has been uncertain for almost a year since Lloyds Banking Group took control of its parent companies following the Barclays’ failure to repay their debts. Since then, several potential buyers, including Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail, and Sir Paul Marshall, a shareholder of GB News, have shown interest in purchasing the titles. Sky News reported earlier this month that Sir Paul is preparing a fresh bid for the Telegraph after stepping down from the board of GB News.

Last year, Lloyds Banking Group appointed three independent directors to oversee the sale of the Telegraph after seizing control from the Barclay family. However, RedBird IMI repaid £1.16bn in loans owed by the Barclays to Lloyds

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