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GB News has given shares to some of its top presenters and contributors, including former Conservative business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and Arlene Foster, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland.
The right-leaning broadcaster, which has been hit by a series of scandals and investigations by the UK’s media watchdog in the past year, has also awarded stakes to a number of other staff including suspended presenter Dan Wootton, according to filings in Companies House.
In addition, the company gave shares to Laurence Fox, the actor and leader of the Reclaim Party who was axed from the channel after making sexist comments about a political correspondent.
These shares have been cancelled since his exit, however, according to a person close to the situation, who added that the awards were made earlier this year.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, was given extra shares through his company Thorn in the Side, according to the filings, taking his stake to above 1 per cent. Farage said he welcomed the move by GB News, telling the Financial Times: “Incentives are a good thing.”
GB News declined to comment.
The most recent filings show that Lord Michael Farmer, former treasurer of the Conservative party, has also increased his stake in the business.
Others to have received shares include presenters such as Eamonn Holmes, one of the best paid on the channel, journalist Camilla Tominey and television presenter and author Neil Oliver. Billionaire financier and Conservative donor Michael Spencer has sold his stake, however, according to the filings.
The company wants to reward its staff and provide long-term incentives for them to stay, according to one person familiar with the matter, although it is not known if these share awards are alongside or instead of bonuses.
The shares have mostly been handed out to its presenters in the form of growth stocks, which tend to only gain value after a certain valuation of the company has been reached.
Paul Marshall, the hedge fund tycoon, owns about 45 per cent of the channel, similar to the level held by Dubai-based Legatum Ventures. Smaller shareholders include City fund manager Helena Morrissey.
Marshall is one of the bidders for the Daily Telegraph in an auction by Lloyds Banking Group, which seized control of the newspaper earlier this year from the Barclay family.
GB News has broken broadcasting rules several times since it launched in June 2021 and is facing multiple further probes into whether its broadcasters have breached Ofcom rules.
The channel has grown the number of both current and past Conservative MPs as presenters, which has led to questions over impartiality.
The broadcaster recently signed up former UK prime minister Boris Johnson as a presenter, programme maker and commentator in the run-up to the UK general election expected next year.