Belfast Telegraph

Media magnate heads £250m deal to merge papers

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland newsman David Montgomery is said to be poised to re-enter the press hall with a new plan to create a new £250m newspaper company.

The mercurial media magnate (63), born in Bangor, is thought to be head of a new consortium, backed by private equity firms, which aims to set up Local World.

On Monday, Trinity Mirror confirmed that it is working with the owner of the Daily Mail on the proposed venture, which will comprise the regional paper assets of Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) and Iliffe News & Media.

The three newspaper groups could have 75% of the new business.

DMGT has also confirmed that it is in talks regarding the future of regional newspaper arm Northcliffe Media.

The division includes the Leicester Mercury, Bristol Post and Derby Telegraph, as well as 26 local news, information and classifieds websites under the 'thisis' banner.

The proposed deal is expected to value Northcliffe at little more than a tenth of the £1.2bn offer reportedly rejected by DMGT in 2005.

Conditions in the industry have deteriorated sharply since then, with Northcliffe's operating profits falling 37% to £17m in the year to November 2011.

The other partner is Yattendon, the family-owned media and property group, which runs 39 daily, weekly and Sunday titles through Iliffe News & Media.

Trinity Mirror has more than 130 regional daily and weekly newspapers, with key titles including the Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News and Western Mail.

Montgomery, a former editor of the News of the World and former chief executive of Mirror Group, now Trinity Mirror, is thought to have lined up the private equity backing to finance the deal.

He founded a German-centred investment company, Mecom Group in 2000, specialising in mergers and acquisitions of newspaper and media companies in continental Europe and sold his own interest in Local Press, the group that included the News Letter and Derry Journal, to Johnson Press in 2005.

Bringing together Northcliffe, with 91 titles, and Iliffe means a merger of companies that are currently listed as the fourth and 11th largest publishers by circulation.

Johnston itself is undergoing huge changes, with plans to cut more staff at its Irish business as it continues to revamp its operations.

Last week it emerged the group is introducing a voluntary severance scheme.

David Montgomery Factfile

  • Born in Bangor, County Down, in 1948.
  • Attended Down High School and Queen's University Belfast where he studied history and politics and edited the The Gown.
  • Joined Daily Mirror, in 1973, becoming became chief sub-editor in 1978.
  • Joined The Sun in 1980.
  • Returned to Mirror stable to work on The People before going back to to News International.
  • Appointed editor of News of the World from 1985 to 1987.
  • Appointed as editor and managing director of Today newspaper, seeing the circulation double to 600,000.
  • Appointed director of News (UK) Limited, a subsidiary of News International.
  • Returned to Mirror Group as chief executive between 1992 and 1999 following the death Robert Maxwell in 1991.
  • Stepped down from Mirror in 1999.
  • Founded London-based investment firm Mecom Group in 2000, specialising in mergers and acquisitions of newspaper and media companies in continental Europe.
  • Stepped down from Mecom in 2011.