Now he is looking abroad for a big return to the news business.
The Telegraph went up for auction this year after its owners, the Barclay family, defaulted on a loan. Sometimes called The Torygraph for its influence on British conservative politics, the paper attracted powerful suitors like Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, owner of London’s Daily Mail.
The auction was paused on Tuesday after Mr. Zucker’s proposal, which relies on roughly 1.1 billion pounds, or about $1.4 billion, provided by RedBird IMI, the media venture company he founded last year, and a major Abu Dhabi-based investment fund. After a series of financial maneuvers, RedBird IMI would assume ownership and management of The Telegraph and The Spectator. Redbird IMI said its Emirati partner would be a passive investor.
Mr. Zucker declined to comment, citing the pending negotiations. But his vision for The Telegraph includes a potential expansion into the United States, where Mr. Zucker believes a market has emerged for a center-right news publication, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking who requested anonymity because the deal was not closed.
Mr. Zucker does not plan to oversee day-to-day news coverage, the person said. Instead, he will focus on The Telegraph’s business strategy and building its presence overseas; he will not relocate to London. Still, Mr. Zucker has a reputation as a hands-on manager, dating back to his 20s when he ran NBC’s “Today” show; he later became chief executive of NBCUniversal before he was forced out in 2011.
The deal could still collapse, and regulatory hurdles await.
RedBird IMI is a joint venture between RedBird Capital, a private-equity firm, and a private investment fund that Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, an Emirati royal, runs. The involvement of Middle East interests has raised concerns among members of Parliament about foreign influence over British media. In a letter to regulators, six Conservative Party politicians warned that the proposal by RedBird IMI “represents a potential threat to press freedom in this country.” Any deal could set off further government scrutiny.