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Chief executive plays down sale prospects in message to JPI staff

David KingJPIMedia chief executive David King has told staff the company must aim to grow as a “standalone” business as he played down the prospects of a sale.

Responding to Sky News reports that the company’s owners were in talks about a potential sale or break-up of the business, Mr King said that while he believed that industry consolidation was needed, there was no certainty it would happen.

The broadcaster claimed the company has set a deadline of next Monday for preliminary offers for its titles, which include national daily the i and more than 100 regional news brands.

But while JPIMedia has confirmed it is “exploring all options,” Mr King made clear in a message to staff that he would continue to plough ahead with current plans to build an online subscription model for the group’s larger titles.

Online paywalls have already been introduced at The Scotsman and are currently being trialled at The News, Portsmouth and the Blackpool Gazette.

According to the Sky News report, prospective buyers for JPIMedia assets have been sent information containing “optimistic” forecasts about their growth potential as subscription-based platforms.

Mr King told staff: “In light of today’s speculation I thought I should update you on the business planning and strategic option analysis that we have been working on with the board and our advisers.

“At the end of May the board appointed a financial adviser to work with us in assessing the current and future prospects for the business and its titles.

“In the last 9 months we have made significant progress in reshaping our business. To prepare JPIMedia for the future, we have developed a digitally led plan, reflecting our intent to build a digital subscription model for our larger titles, while continuing to sustain newspapers and advertising income.

“So far we have launched digital subscriptions on four of our larger titles.

“That our industry is undergoing substantial change is well-known to all of you. I have commented before that industry consolidation is needed and is an important part of sustaining local media in the long-term.

“Consolidation would accelerate our digital initiatives further, and enable us to benefit from increased scale that will allow us to compete more effectively in a marketplace dominated by global tech giants.

“To date however, there has only been limited activity in this area and as a result we cannot be certain that consolidation will happen in the immediate term.

“Therefore, we must continue to develop a strategy that will take us back to growth as a standalone business.

“At this moment we are in the middle of rolling out two critical digital initiatives, the digital acceleration pilot in the North East, while also rolling out the new Brightsites platform to enhance the audience experience, which will then be followed by the launch of further digital subscriptions.

“I will provide a further update in due course.”