LONDON (Reuters) - Britain ordered a new probe into an Abu Dhabi-backed plan to buy the influential Telegraph newspaper on Friday, stepping in a second time after Redbird IMI revised the deal to allay concerns of foreign interference in one of the country's oldest dailies.
The government set out its decision to intervene in the takeover on public interest grounds, asking the country's competition regulator, the CMA, and media watchdog Ofcom to look at whether RedBird IMI's tweaked deal would impact freedom of expression and accuracy.
"This is further to information my department received this week that Redbird IMI have made changes to the corporate structure of the potential acquiring entities of the Telegraph Media Group, and this has created a new Relevant Merger Situation," media minister Lucy Frazer said in a statement.
RedBird IMI made eleventh hour changes to the way it would take over the Telegraph and its sister title, the Spectator, earlier this week, days before the CMA and Ofcom were due to submit their review into the original deal.
The regulators will submit their report into the deal by March 11.
The company, backed by Emirati royal and Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has said the tweak to the corporate structure was to clarify the point that it was a passive investor and would have no management or editorial involvement "whatsoever in the title".
The titles will now be owned by a new English registered company of which RedBird IMI, which is led by former CNN executive Jeff Zucker, is a limited partner. The alteration prompted a rebuke from media minister Lucy Frazer who said it was not "conducive to the full and proper functioning of the process".
The assets are technically still owned by the Barclay family after RedBird IMI helped pay back its 1.2 billion pound ($1.5 billion) debt to Lloyds Bank to end a long-running dispute.
($1 = 0.7868 pounds)
(Reporting by Muvija M, editing by Elizabeth Piper)