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Eleventh hour deal to save newspaper fell through, says financier

Stephen HobsonA financial expert has claimed he came close to selling a regional newspaper just weeks before its closure.

Last week it was announced the Sunday Independent, which covers the South-West of England, had close with around 20 people set to lose their jobs as a result.

Editor John Collings shared his shock at the newspaper’s closure, which came the year after the death of its proprietor Brian Doel, but business recovery expert Stephen Hobson has since revealed he was asked to sell the business in February of this year.

Mr Hobson, a partner with Plymouth-based firm PKF Francis Clark, told the city’s daily The Herald a deal to save the Independent had fallen through at the last minute.

He said: “The financial circumstances of the Sunday Independent has been precarious for some time and after the death of one of the major shareholders and the loss of one of its income streams the decision was taken to sell.”

The identity of the proposed buyer has not been revealed, but Mr Hobson added: “We generated a lot of interest and came close to sealing a pre-pack deal for its sale but this failed at the eleventh hour.”

The Liskeard-based Independent, which has a particular focus on sport, ran a series of editions covering Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon and Bristol & Somerset and counts Alastair Campbell among its journalistic alumni.

Mr Hobson, pictured above left, said: “For many sports fans, Sunday won’t be the same without the Sunday Independent and its comprehensive sports coverage.

“It has been a central part of the West Country’s media industry for over two centuries and I believe the strength of the name alone will be sufficient to interest potential new owners.

“We all sincerely hope that this will be a temporary closure.”

Independent editor John Collings said “several calls” had been received about the newspaper’s future since its closure was announced.

He also said there had been some “direct interest” in the paper’s future as a results of HTFP’s coverage of the closure story.

John told HTFP: “I would just like to say how touched and grateful we have been for everyone’s kind words and support, and express our sorrow that currently we are unable to provide the service which, clearly, so many people cherished.

“I’d also like to thank my staff here at Liskeard for their loyal support at this most difficult of times, and offer our collective and sincere appreciation for the efforts of freelances and contributors throughout the South West of England who were always so supportive in our efforts to produce ‘The Weekly Miracle’.”

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