Johnston Press sells Republic of Ireland titles to Iconic Newspapers for £7.2m
Johnston Press has sold its Republic of Ireland titles to Iconic Newspapers for £7.2m after paying around £115m to acquire them in 2005.
Sale: Johnston Press has shifted its Irish titles
The National Union of Journalists welcomed the news, saying it would “free the Irish regional titles from debt and end a period of uncertainty for staff”. Iconic Newspapers, owned by advertising executive Malcolm Denmark, now owns 14 Irish titles including the Limerick Leader, Donegal Democrat and Kilkenny People, although titles in Northern Ireland such as the Derry Journal and Ballymena Times are not included in the sale.
Ashley Highfield, CEO of Johnston Press, said: “The disposal of our trade and assets in the Republic of Ireland will increase our ability to focus on the growth of our business in the United Kingdom and in particular our digital initiatives, in line with our stated strategy.
We believe that it is in the Group’s best interests to dedicate our resources to these opportunities. I would like to thank the staff of our Irish business for their loyalty and dedication over the years and we wish them well for a successful future.”
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said she would seek a meeting with the new owner.
“I will be writing to Mr Denmark, seeking an early meeting to discuss plans for the future development of the titles,” she said.
“This has been a very stressful time for our members and today’s announcement will be welcome because of the stated commitment of the new owner to the titles.”
Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ, added: “These are established titles which have placed a pivotal role on the Irish media landscape. Local communities across Ireland value their local newspapers and it is to be hoped that the new owner will provide editorial investment and leadership at this critical time.
“The NUJ has been extremely critical of the way in which Johnston Press has managed their titles, north and south and we believe that with proper investment these newspapers can be secured.”
Johnston Press last week announced losses of £286.8m and a dip in advertising revenue of 6.4 per cent in 2013, although digital display advertising was up by nearly a third at 30.3 per cent.