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The Guardian’s venture capital arm has invested in a UK start-up alongside Sir Len Blavatnik, Britain's richest man, despite repeatedly criticising the billionaire in print.
GMG Ventures, which invests money on behalf of the Scott Trust, the owner of the Guardian, has joined a a $16.5m (£12.1m) fundraising round by Vidsy, a video advertising technology company. Sir Len’s business Access Entertainment was another investor.
The unlikely co-investment comes after the Guardian issued a correction in 2017 over wrong allegations that Sir Len had links to the Kremlin, stating the billionaire “has never been a close friend or confidant of President Putin”. It issued another similar correction to a 2016 story.
Vidsy develops advertising technology used by big brands to create video ads for apps such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.
Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC Television and President of Access Entertainment, will join the company's board as part of the deal.
Born in Ukraine before emigrating to the US in his 20s, Sir Len holds US and UK citizenship. He made his early fortune with deals in the former Soviet Union with deals in mining and commodities, before diversifying and building a media and entertainment empire through his vehicle Access Industries.
He bought Warner Music Group for $3.3bn in 2011, which went public last year and has since seen its valuation surge to over $20bn. Access is also the controlling shareholder in Dazn, the streaming company linked with buying BT Sport.
Sir Len’s net worth was estimated in May to have increased to £23bn, making him Britain’s richest man, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
The Guardian has previously scrutinised the billionaire’s work and links. In 2017, it published a piece questioning whether Oxford University and the Victoria and Albert Museum should have taken gifts from Sir Len.
A GMG spokesman said: “The Scott Trust holds a range of investments, including through GMG Ventures - an early stage independent venture capital fund, set up to invest in start-ups that are at the intersection of media and technology. Guardian journalism is and has always been independent and free of any commercial consideration.”
GMG Ventures first invested in Vidsy in 2017, and reinvested as part of its latest funding.
The venture capital arm was founded in 2017 to take long-term bets on technology start-ups for the Guardian’s benefactor the Scott Trust.
Its other investments include Faculty, an AI company, which advised the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 and worked on the Government’s coronavirus response. The Guardian has repeatedly scrutinised the company’s work.
Access Industries declined to comment.