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Johnston Press agrees £17m deal to sell 13 newspapers

Ashley-Highfield2-e1401302531277Johnston Press has agreed a £17m deal to sell 13 of its newspapers.

The company says, subject to shareholder approval, a conditional agreement to sell the entire issued share capital of Johnston Publishing East Anglia Limited has been reached with Iliffe Media.

Titles affected include the bi-weekly Lynn News, as well as weekly papers in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Rutland and Suffolk.

The disposal is in line with the group’s previously stated strategy to focus its business on core titles in selected geographic markets with a view to reducing net debt.

Ashley Highfield, pictured above left, Johnston Press chief executive, said: “This disposal marks a major milestone in our divestment strategy and puts us firmly on the path of refocusing our activities on areas with the greatest growth potential.

“The disposal will also reduce our net debt whilst putting us on a stronger footing.

“I would like to thank the staff based at these Titles for their hard work and loyalty over the years and we wish them well for a successful future.”

The newspapers affected are the Bury Free Press, Bourne Local, Diss Express, Fenland Citizen, Lincolnshire Free Press, Grantham Journal, Haverhill Echo, Lynn News, Newmarket Journal, Rutland Times, Suffolk Free Press, Spalding Guardian and Stamford Mercury.

Iliffe will operate the titles in two units based on their geography.

Ricky Allan, currently managing director of the Cambridge Independent, will take additional responsibility for the titles in Bury, Newmarket, Diss, Haverhill and Sudbury.

Richard Parkinson, a former regional managing director of Johnston Press, will be joining Iliffe in early January and will take up the new role of managing director (Midlands), responsible for the acquired titles in Kings Lynn, Wisbech, Spalding, Grantham, Stamford and Rutland.

Chief executive Edward Iliffe said: “We are delighted to have acquired these well-respected local newspapers. Iliffe Media, with its long heritage as an independent family-run media business, firmly believes in the future of local newspaper publishing across all platforms. We’re looking forward to welcoming our new colleagues.

“We see the addition of these titles to be a natural extension and good geographical fit to the recently launched Cambridge Independent, a weekly printed and daily online publication serving the city of Cambridge.

“Iliffe’s commitment to the sector is further demonstrated by its desire to print its expanded portfolio of newspapers on its own press in Cambridge.”

In August, JP completed the sale of its three papers on the Isle of Man to Tindle for £4.25m.

16 comments

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  • December 16, 2016 at 10:06 am
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    It won’t be long before JP only owns the i,
    Will be interesting to see what’s done with the titles which JP listed as sub-core. More doom and gloom and worry for the all that work at those titles. Happy Xmas.
    On this news share price jumped giving the company a total value of £14m!!! Wasn’t the i purchased for £24m?

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  • December 16, 2016 at 10:21 am
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    And so begins the great fire-sale. Just in time to get into the annual figures. Johnston Press will soon be running out of things to sell. No ‘sub-prime’ titles gone in notice.

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  • December 16, 2016 at 10:26 am
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    Wouldn’t it be easier if JP just gave up publishing newspapers ?

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  • December 16, 2016 at 10:29 am
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    It’s goung to be a happy Christmas for staff at those papers. Finally shaking off the shackles of JP.

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  • December 16, 2016 at 10:56 am
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    A great opportunity for some of the decent independent publishers in east Angola to take on these titles and breathe new life into them, there’s never been a better time as the local businesses need a good competitor to deliver an audience
    Good luck to anyone taking these on and good luck too to those JP employees facing an uncertain future in these areas

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  • December 16, 2016 at 10:57 am
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    Angola? Bit too Far East!
    I meant of course ‘. East anglia”
    Apologies

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  • December 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm
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    MERRY CHRISTMAS! Seriously, this is the best news all year. Finally, Ashley makes a decent decision.

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  • December 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm
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    you think Angola is in the far east? you know about as much about geography as you do about the newspaper business.

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  • December 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm
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    Can understand JP workers being apprehensive. Asset strippers could await.
    On the other hand someone might come along who believes in local news for local people written by local staff. A mantra long ago abandoned by JP, sadly.

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  • December 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm
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    ‘Chief executive Edward Iliffe said’….oh dear ! Anyone else remember Freddie Johnston saying the same thing ?

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  • December 16, 2016 at 4:22 pm
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    Glad to hear the JP staff keeping their jobs (as they would be in trouble if JP kept the newspapers!) Iliffe have done a great job with the Cambridge Independent and its more of a local paper rather the rival daily (why would I want to read about yesterday’s world news?)

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  • December 16, 2016 at 4:31 pm
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    I somehow feel the irony in Edward Iliffe’s statement. Shame the commitment they have to local newspapers and their ‘In house press’ didn’t stop them selling to LW that was obviously going to lead to huge staff cuts, office closures, publications shutting down and said press having to lose most of its workforce.

    Let’s hope for the sake of the transferring staff that the lesson has been learned and no more pots of gold are chased hey!

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  • December 16, 2016 at 5:27 pm
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    Iliffe lost a lot of talented staff members when they sold out to LW and LW cut the staff down to almost nothing

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  • December 16, 2016 at 6:33 pm
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    As a fully paid-up member of the ‘Diss Express Former Editors Club’ I hope Iliffe help restore some former glories to Mereside (bring back World Media Inc!) and those other wonderful titles in East Anglia and beyond. Let’s now hope someone’s got a buy-out plan to get JP out of the Borders…

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  • December 17, 2016 at 10:22 am
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    So Ashley thanks the staff for their hard work and loyalty! Hypocrisy at its most nauseating. JP hasn’t shown much loyalty to its staff. Hundreds have been shown ‘the door’.

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  • December 20, 2016 at 9:34 pm
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    I wonder will anyone buy the Northern Ireland papers and release the staff from the shackles of JP. PLEASE!! We’ll work out butts off for you!

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