The mystery surrounding the identity of a last-minute attempt to purchase the liquidated assets the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News intensified today, with named members of the consortium admitting they didn’t know who was bankrolling the bid.
The Kessler Foundation, the owner of the Chronicle for 36 years, submitted an offer for the assets of both titles to the liquidators on Tuesday. If successful, the bid will see Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer take on the role of editor at the merged publication.
But the Financial Times reported yesterday on a rival bid submitted by a consortium led by Radlett United Synagogue’s Rabbi Jonathan Hughes, the biographer William Shawcross, broadcasters John Ware and Jonathan Sacerdoti, former Downing Street spin doctor Robbie Gibb and former Labour MP John Woodcock.
When reached by Jewish News, both Shawcross and Rabbi Hughes said they had put their names to the bid without knowing who the backer was, while Sacerdoti declined to comment.
The report also listed Investec’s chief operating officer Robert Swerling, Kirkland and Ellis partner Jonathan Kandel, Kovrr head of strategic initiatives Tom Boltman and EMK Capital managing partner Mark Joseph as other members of the rival bid.
The consortium has pledged to invest “millions of pounds over the next five years” and commit to “editorial independence”, with Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard remaining at the helm.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Jewish Chronicle chairman Alan Jacobs criticised the counter offer’s anonymity. He said: “A bid for the Jewish Chronicle using money from an unidentified source and fronted by a group of individuals who refuse to tell the world anything of their plans looks like a shameful attempt to hijack the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper.”
In a statement, the consortium hit back at the Kessler Foundation for its “conduct during this process” and deplored what it said was a “cynical move to have put the paper into liquidation during the Jewish festival of Passover and over the bank holiday weekend.”