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Management buy-out for former RIM title

Former Regional Independent Media group MD Ernest Petrie has taken on a new challenge – as part of a group that has bought the Alloa-based Wee County News from Johnston Press.

The management buy-out also involves former RIM finance director Sue Laverick, who took a break from the business when the group was sold to Johnston Press in April this year.

A third partner is Wee County News editorial director Joan McCann, and the group is expecting local investors to come on board in due course.

The deal to take on the 6,500-circulation weekly paper marks a return to the paper’s roots. It was set up as a paid-for title by a group of local businessmen in 1995 before being bought up by RIM in 2000 and later Johnston Press.

Joan, who was deputy editor at the time of the paper’s launch, said: “We were very much seen as the cheeky newcomer, with a tabloid style, appealing to a younger readership.

“We are more established now, but still have that same appeal which gives us good potential.”

The newspaper is so well-established that it took the Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Newspaper of the Year title last year, the judges saying it was “the template for local newspapers in the 21st Century”.

It has 17 full-time staff and two part-timers and circulates in an area that grew from the manufacturing and brewing industries but has suffered through job losses recently.

Joan said: “The deal with Johnston was something mutually acceptable and Johnston believed what we did, that the paper could flourish through local management.”

The £560m deal for Johnston Press to buy RIM in April created one of the UK’s largest regional newspaper groups, publishing more than 250 titles across England and Scotland.

As a result, many of the RIM executives, including Ernest Petrie and Sue Laverick, left the company.

The purchase was part of a long-term plan by Johnston to ensure it is involved in the consolidation of the nation’s regional press.

RIM was the fifth largest regional newspaper publishing group in the UK by circulation, with its newspaper portfolio boasting of 53 titles comprising six daily, 29 weekly paid-for and 18 weekly free titles.

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