One of the City’s most prominent hedge fund managers is preparing to invest millions of pounds in GB News, the fledgling current affairs broadcasting company which is targeting a launch into British homes next year.
Sky News has learnt that Sir Paul Marshall, the co-founder of Marshall Wace, is in advanced talks about injecting approximately £10m into GB News.
Sources said that an announcement about the new channel’s fundraising could be made in the coming days once it has finalised the line-up of its founding shareholders.
The funding would bolster the firepower of a business which wants to challenge Sky News and other established rivals by providing an alternative approach to news and current affairs broadcasting in the UK.
GB News has appointed Andrew Neil, the veteran journalist, as its chairman, and is in the process of recruiting scores of staff ahead of a launch expected in the first half of 2021.
The recruitment of Mr Neil – who described GB News as “the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years” – was seen as evidence of the seriousness of its founders’ plans.
Sir Paul, who was a donor to the Vote Leave campaign ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum, is understood to have lined up his stake in a personal capacity.
A former non-executive director of the Department for Education, Sir Paul was a founding trustee of ARK, the children’s charity.
He was estimated by The Sunday Times Rich List to have a fortune worth £630m, making him one of the City’s richest individuals.
Sir Paul was also one of the ‘Red Knights’ who drew up plans in 2010 – later abandoned – to mount a takeover bid for Manchester United FC and prise it from the control of the Glazer family.
A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on Thursday.
If he does become a shareholder in GB News’ parent, Sir Paul would almost certainly join Legatum, a Dubai-based company founded by Christopher Chandler, on the new broadcaster’s investor register.
Legatum, which is best-known for the annual Prosperity Index produced by the Legatum Institute, the right-wing think-tank it established in 2007, is said to be ready to commit between £15m and £20m to the new venture.
Discovery, the American media group, has already committed £20m to fund GB News’ launch, with a £60m target understood to be significantly oversubscribed.
Between them, Discovery, Sir Paul and Legatum would account for the vast majority of the initial funding being sought by the channel.
Other prospective investors which have held talks with GB News executives include the Reubens, one of Britain’s wealthiest families.
GB News has been set up by media industry figures including Andrew Cole, a director of Liberty Global, and Mark Schneider, who also founded parts of what went on to become the American tycoon John Malone’s telecommunications empire.
The new channel is to be run as chief executive by Angelos Frangopoulos, a former Sky News Australia executive.
GB News is being developed with the internal tagline ‘Rent the news, own the personalities and analysis”, and is expected to pitch a right-wing perspective on news and current affairs – although it will be obliged to adhere to the media regulator Ofcom’s impartiality rules.
It may not be the only addition to the UK’s broadcast news landscape next year, with Rupert Murdoch also preparing to establish a TV news channel in the UK.
Lord Sugar and Piers Morgan are among those being courted by Mr Murdoch’s News UK to join his new outfit, according to reports.