Independent publisher Chris Bullivant has today announced he is to withdraw his titles from Birmingham after losing the backing of estate agents in the city.
The entreprenuer sparked a newspaper war earlier this year when he launched the part-free, part paid-for Birmingham Press earlier this year in oppositon to established Trinity Mirror titles.
Trinity hit back by bringing out a free version of the Birmingham Post and distributing it in the same wealthy suburbs that the Press had been targeting.
Undaunted, Mr Bullivant then opened a new front in the battle by launching an entirely free title, the Birmingham Free Press.
A fortnight ago, it emerged that Mr Bullivant had offered shares in the Free Press in a desperate bid to keep it afloat.
However in a statement issued this afternoon, he admitted he was unable to compete with what he claimed was Trinity Mirror’s latest offer to the estate agents.
Mr Bullivant also said he would be complaining to the Office of Fair Trading about the pricing structure employed by his rivals.
Trinity Mirror has previously denied engaging in “anti-competitive practices.’ The company has yet to issue a response to Mr Bullivant’s latest claims.
Mr Bullivant’s statement read: “It has been rumoured over recent weeks that the Birmingham Press and the Birmingham Free Press were due to close.
“The truth is that the CJB Company which publishes these Birmingham newspapers had secured the backing of our bankers to continue publishing providing we, in turn, secured the backing of the Birmingham estate agents to support the project.
“A meeting was held yesterday (Thursday) between representatives of BPM Media (Trinity Mirror) and the estate agents of Birmingham.
“The agents were offered an advertising package consisting of a page appearing in the Birmingham Mail and a page appearing in the Mail Extra, a total of 130,000 copies per week, full colour, for the sum of £250. The duration of this offer was until December 2011.
“I was approached by a number of the Birmingham estate agents this morning and asked if I could compete with the BPM Media price.
“I had to say that I could not – and I had to start the withdrawal of my newspapers from Birmingham as a result.
“I am complaining about the BPM Media pricing structure to the Office of Fair Trading, but if BPM Media prove to be right in their pricing, I fear there is no future for independent publishing in the UK.
“It would be interesting to know if Trinity Mirror has made similar offers to other groups of advertisers in the Midlands or in their Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle or Cardiff dailies; if not, why not?
“I introduced free newspapers into this country in 1970, and free dailies 1985. I firmly believe that the Press /Free Press formula will be the one that eventually replaces daily regional newspapers, I am extremely proud of the product.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my excellent team who helped me develop the project over the last eight months and, to quote my ‘north Brummie’ editor, produce a bostin’ newspaper.”