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October 23, 2019
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Mysterious investor in UK newspapers turns out to Saudi man close to MBS

LONDON: The man who used a Cayman Islands company to mask his identity to buy major stakes in one of Britain’s most well-known newspapers has been identified as a Saudi investor.

According to the Financial Times, the Saudi investor has close ties to the country’s state-owned bank.

The report said that Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel bought a third of the share of the Evening Standard’s parent company from Evgeny Lebedev, the son of a Russian oligarch, for £25 million ($33 million) at the end of last year.

Little is said to be known of Abuljadayel but the FT confirmed that he bought a similar sized stake in another British paper, the Independent, two years ago. Under the direction of its new owners, the paper with a total online readership of 21.1 million each month partnered with Saudi media firm to launch four news portals in Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Urdu.

The deal, announced earlier this year, saw the Independent license its brand to a Saudi Arabian publisher who is reported to have close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The young prince, known colloquially as MBS, has come under fire for his alleged link to the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The FT revealed that Abuljadayel is associated with NCB Capital, the investment banking arm of Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank. The lender is majority owned by the Saudi government

Despite insistence by the Independent that its coverage would not be compromised, the purchase of stakes in the paper in 2017 by a Middle Eastern autocrat was seen by critics as another arsenal for Saudi Arabia’s soft power offensive designed to soften its image across the world.