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Guardian in talks over sale of regional titles

Guardian Media Group has today confirmed it is having “exploratory talks” about selling off its entire stable of regional titles.

According to a report in today’s Daily Telegraph, the company is looking to offload GMG Regional Media to rival publisher Trinity Mirror.

The newspaper claimed the talks were being driven by a desire to avoid more than 100 job losses at The Guardian and The Observer.

In a statement issued at 11.31am this morning, GMG confirmed that talks were taking place but stressed that they were still at “an early stage.”

A spokesman said: “In line with its remit GMG keeps its portfolio under review on an ongoing basis.

“Since the publication of the Digital Britain report we have been considering the potential for further consolidation within the regional press sector, and as part of this there have been some exploratory talks regarding our regional media business.

“However these are at a very early stage and it is not clear whether they will progress or what the outcome is likely to be.”

The regional division publishes the Manchester Evening News and Reading Post as well as a host of associated websites and weeklies in Greater Manchester, Surrey and Berkshire.

The Telegraph’s report said any disposal would amount to a “fire sale” with GMG expected to attract a figure of £40m.

Trinity Mirror has declined to comment on the story.

Any such move by the GMG would have major repercussions for the regional newspaper industry in the North-West as it would give Trinity Mirror ownership of the major daily titles in both Liverpool and Manchester.

It would also end nearly 200 years of involvement by GMG in the region. The Guardian started life in the North West in 1821 as the Manchester Guardian before moving to London 50 years and dropping the city’s name from the masthead.

All the company’s papers are owned by the Scott Trust whose sole responsibility is to safeguard the future of The Guardian.

Trinity Mirror already prints GMG’s Greater Manchester titles as well as its own Liverpool dailies at its plant in Oldham.

This latest speculation comes nine months after GMG Regional Media announced wholesale changes to its titles including closing almost all its newspaper offices around Greater Manchester and switching the Reading Evening Post to twice-weekly publication.


Rob (17/12/2009 15:07:54)
Manchester has long needed a vibrant paper with its finger on the pulse of city life, like titles in Liverpool, not a narrow, predictable Daily Mail-type rag recycling the same old trash about the Cheshire, Corrie and ASBOs. Bring on a new owner. The Guardian, however well intentioned, betrayed Manchester when it left 30- odd years ago. Its actions totally undermined any commitment to the north of England. It closed City Life and it has closed all the weekly offices. How can it justify its Liberal tag? Manchester is disgracefully served by news. Just ask well-read Mancunians what the city council decided this week or who the Leader of the Council is. Sadly, many will struggle.
Redesign the MEN, bring in new talent, report about the swathes of Manchester people who are currently ignored by the MEN, and liberate the weeklies to flourish.

Reporter (17/12/2009 15:25:28)
Sounds great idea Rob. Only problem – who are the prospective new owners? “Commitment to regional journalism”, “forward-thinking” and “investment” are terms not normally associated with Trinity Mirror.

the red postman (17/12/2009 16:46:35)
Trinity Mirror don’t have £40million to spend, do they? So this move would mean loading more debt on to a business already crippled by the weight of it.

Once of the BPM parish (18/12/2009 10:03:31)
So Rob, are you expecting Sly Bailey to ride her white steed and come to Manchester’s rescue? Do you back 300/1 outsiders in the Grand National as well?

Paul (18/12/2009 11:46:55)
You’d hope that journalists at the Grauniad and Absurder would be protesting about this sell-off.
After all, their wages were subsidised for years by the profits from the regions.
Can’t see them bothering, though, now it’s time to save their own skins.

Ben (18/12/2009 12:46:26)
It’s simple. The MEN has to make buckets of cash to keep the Guardian afloat. As soon as it isn’t making enough to do that, it’s in real danger because it no longer serves a purpose for the Guardian. If it was part of another news company, the fact it was still making a profit would be enough (and that’s more than can be said for some newspapers at the moment). If the MEN goes to a firm like Trinity Mirror, it becomes the company’s flagship regional title in a firm which can’t allow one title to prop up others.