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Daily returns to local ownership in merger with independent title

Matt RossA regional daily has returned to local ownership for the first time in almost 20 years after merging with an independent title.

The Jersey Evening Post has announced its merger with Channel Islands publisher the Bailiwick Express.

The JEP had been owned by the Claverley Group since 2004, when it purchased previous owner the Guiton Group.

Bailiwick Express launched in 2014 in Jersey as a digital newspaper, with a Guernsey edition following in 2018.

The business will now be owned by the existing shareholders of Bailiwick Express, together with members of the JEP board, while a portion of the shares in the new business will also be made available to staff.

JEP managing director Matt Ross, pictured, said: “We’re really pleased that we can now proceed with a positive new chapter for two respected and trusted local news brands.

“As part of an ongoing plan to broaden our local ownership, we will make a portion of the shares in the new business available to our staff; the media industry internationally is going through a period of massive change, with a number of global factors severely impacting local operations.

“We believe that firstly uniting with a complementary business, and then broadening our local ownership is the best way to secure our successful future.”

The JEP was named Daily Newspaper of the Year for titles below a 400,000 monthly reach at the Regional Press Awards in 2021.

Bailiwick Express also broadcasts Bailiwick Radio online and on DAB+, and publishes Connect magazine in Jersey and Guernsey along with a weekly selection of news podcasts.

The new company will be setting up an employee benefit trust in order to make sure its staff have a shareholding, and will be “broadening that ownership further in the coming years”.

James Filleul, co-founder, managing director and editor of Bailiwick Express, said: “Since we announced the merger, perhaps the most common feedback has been from islanders wanting to make sure both news brands will remain. We understand that – one of the main reasons we are coming together is to make sure that actually happens.

“A strong, well-resourced, local newsroom is hard to sustain in the current media environment, which has very significant recruitment and commercial pressures. But it is essential.

“Bringing the JEP’s team together with Express will allow us to do that, and deliver the journalism which really matters to people, while also combining our digital knowledge and experience.”

A spokeswoman for the Claverley Group, which also owns the Midland News Association, said:

“The Claverley Group completed the sale of the Jersey Evening Post over the weekend. Having decided to focus on mainland businesses, we felt the time was right to sell.

“The deal means the future of the business will be shaped by the new island-based owners, focused on the community and the long-term interests of the island’s most successful news brand.

“We will continue to support the business through the provision of a number of key services provided by the MNA and PCS.”