The document was sent from Archant head office and was intended for someone with the same surname – and not the Weston and Somerset Mercury hack.
The e-mail, which arrived on a newsdesk PC, discussed swapping titles at Archant Scotland, Archant Devon and Archant Somerset for Newsquest’s Colchester-based titles.
The e-mail was electronically recalled once the error was discovered.
An Archant staffer in Devon said: “This news has spread around the south-west like wildfire, but I think it will be news to the staff in and around Colchester.”
Another, from Somerset, said: “It was a shock. The lengthy e-mail came from someone at the Archant head office. We have not heard anything officially on this from the company.”
Disposal of Newsquest assets in the south east could pave the way to acquiring other titles in the area without competition issues becoming a deciding factor.
Calls to Newsquest’s and Archant’s head office, and Archant’s public affairs department failed to clear up the mystery.
Archant South West managing director Bernard Driscoll said: “We don’t discuss internal correspondence.”
Ian Davies, director of business development at Archant, said that “nothing is being actively considered at the moment”.
Newsquest chairman and chief executive Paul Davidson was unavailable.
Archant Devon and Archant Somerset trade as Archant South West, and include the paid-for weeklies the Exmouth Journal, Sidmouth Herald and the Weston & Somerset Mercury. There are offices in Barnstaple, Exeter, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Weston-super-Mare.
Newsquest assets based at Colchester, part of Newsquest Essex, include the Colchester Evening Gazette and weeklies the Essex County Standard and Maldon and Burnham Standard.
Newsquest publishes more than 300 titles including 17 dailies.
Archant publishes a portfolio of four daily titles, around 40 weekly paid-for and around 50 weekly free newspapers.