Regional publisher Iliffe Media has today completed its £17m purchase of 13 weekly newspapers in East Anglia from Johnston Press.
The deal, announced shortly before Christmas, was subject to the approval of Johnston Press shareholders which was granted at a special meeting last week.
Newspapers included in the deal 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, along with their companion websites.
The printing of these titles will transfer to Iliffe Print Cambridge from the week commencing January 23, 2017.
Iliffe will operate the titles in two units based on their geography, with Ricky Allan, managing director of the Cambridge Independent, taking additional responsibility for the titles in Bury, Newmarket, Diss, Haverhill and Sudbury.
Meanwhile Richard Parkinson moves from Johnston Press to Iliffe to take up the new role of managing director (Midlands), responsible for the acquired titles in Kings Lynn, Wisbech, Spalding, Grantham, Stamford and Rutland.
Edward Iliffe, chief executive of Iliffe Media, said: “We are delighted to have concluded the acquisition of 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 and we now look forward to working in a positive way with our new colleagues and the communities they serve.”
The sale of Iliffe News and Media to the newly-formed Local World consortium in 2013 appeared to mark the end of its involvement in local media, but the family bounced back in 2016 with the launch of the weekly Cambridge Independent.
The transfer of the 13 East Anglian titles marks the second major disposal by Johnston Press following its announcement a year ago that it was seeking to focus its business on “core titles” in selected geographical markets.
In August, JP completed the sale of its three papers on the Isle of Man to Tindle for £4.25m.
Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press 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 in our selected geographic markets, audience profile and digital growth areas.
“The disposal also reduces our net debt, putting us on a stronger financial footing.”