A mystery bidder offered up to £150 million for the whole of Johnston Press before it went into administration, a report has revealed.
The company’s administrator Alix Partners has revealed a total of six offers was received by the regional publisher after it was put up for sale last month – including two for selected JP regional titles only.
While the bidders are not named in the report to creditors released this morning, Alix revealed an offer of £2.5m was made for Sheffield daily The Star, the Sheffield Telegraph and the Doncaster Free Press, while a bid of £30,000 was also received for the Observer Series and West Sussex Gazette.
One offer of between £140m and £150m was made for the whole of the group, while a separate bid of between £96m and £120m for the group, excluding national daily the i, was also received.
Two separate bids for the i alone, worth £25m and £35m respectively, were also made, one of which is believed to have been from Daily Mail owner DMGT.
However, it was considered that none of the offers received, or any combination of them, would result in aggregate net proceeds sufficient to enable the group to repay its bonds in full.
Instead a “pre-pack” deal was reached last weekend, which involved JP being bought out by a new company, JPIMedia, after a brief period in administration.
In its report, Alix defended the move on the grounds that it had saved the jobs of JP staff, but admitted that while funds would be available for distribution to secured bondholders, there will be “a significant shortfall to creditors”.
A spokesman for Alix said: “We are confident that, in the circumstances, the sale achieved the best available outcome for creditors. We are also satisfied that the marketing process for the sale of the business and assets was appropriate and well publicised.”
“The sale consideration, which resulted from the best offer received, was consistent with independent valuations carried out by Mazars and far in excess of other offers received. Proceeding with a swift ‘pre-pack’ had the additional advantages of mitigating disruption to the business and importantly preserving jobs across the organisation.”
Earlier this week, the government-run Pensions Protection Fund confirmed it will lodge a claim of £305m with the JP’s administrators, a figure which it calculates to be the cost of continuing to secure the benefits of JP’s pension scheme members at their current level.
The deal has been described as “shameful” by Christen Ager-Hanssen, whose 25.06pc shareholding in the old JP was rendered worthless by the decision to take the company into administration on Friday night.
Mr Ager-Hanssen has now set up a Pensioner & Shareholder Action Group called ‘Johnston Press – the Truth’, which he says is “dedicated to proving the truth about the circumstances surrounding the Johnston Press Plc pre-pack and to holding those responsible accountable for their actions”.
JPIMedia has declined to comment.
The Alix Partners report put the overall valuation of the company at £181m, including publishing assets, property, trade debts and goodwill.
A table listing its assessment of the intellectual property valuation of the company’s regional subsidiaries titles can be found below:
|No of titles
|IP value (£000)
|Angus County Press
|Blackpool Gazette and Herald
|East Lancashire Newspapers
|East Midlands Newspapers
|Lancashire Evening Post
|Lancaster & Morecambe Newspapers
|Love News Media
|Portsmouth Publishing and Printing
|South Yorkshire Newspapers
|Strachan and Livingston
|The Derry Journal
|The Scotsman Publications
|The Tweeddale Press
|Yorkshire Post Newspapers
|Yorkshire Regional Newspapers
|Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group