Sources claim that the Bank of Scotland has taken control of one of Scotland’s largest independent newspaper groups after it ran into deep financial difficulty.
Dunfermline Press collapsed last week with debts of nearly £40 million, owed mainly to the bank.
In a last-gasp deal the bank now becomes the new group’s major shareholder with around 90 per cent of the equity. The remainder is split between a management buyout team of Graham Morrison, Managing Director of Clyde Press, Graeme Faulds the group’s Finance Director and a number of other investors. The new entity will be named Romanes Media, in memory of the organisation’s founder Deirdre Romanes.
Sources close to the deal have told The Drum that the bank has agreed to write off a substantial portion of the debt, thought to be in excess of £25 million.
The newspapers affected, which had been trading under the banner of Dunfermline Press, are spread right across the country and were split geographically into four distinct trading units.
Clyde Weekly Press, Forth Weekly Pres and Ayrshire Weekly Press accounted for most of them. The rest came under the banner of the Dunfermline Press.
The publications involved are: Greenock Telegraph, Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser, Dunfermline Press, Central Fife Times, East Lothian Courier, Border Telegraph, Peebleshire News, Barrhead News, Clydebank Post, Dumbarton and Vale of Leven advertiser, Helensburgh Advertiser, The Gazette, Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Ayr Advertiser, Irvine Times, Largs and Millport Weekly News, Cumnock Chronicle, Troon Times and Carrick Herald.
In addition the group owns the Dunbartonshire-based Your Radio and newspapers in Berkshire.
Yesterday afternoon Morrison and Faulds visited offices in Scotland to assure shell-shocked staff that their futures are secure.
Clyde and Forth Media’s website states that between them the papers have 300,000 weekly readers.
The group recently underwent an editorial restructuring in a bid to cut costs.
Updated: The Drum has been informed by a source within the Lloyds Banking Group that it actually holds a stake within Dunfermline Press of around 25%, and denied the figure of £25 million. The Drum is continuing to look into the story at the time of writing and has asked for clarification.