Northern Ireland media firm National World hoping to purchase News Letter publisher
The media company headed up by Co Down executive David Montgomery has confirmed it has approached News Letter publisher JPI Media with a view to a takeover.
Mr Montgomery (71) is a former editor of the News of the World and ex-chief executive of Mirror Group.
He has now set up National World, a listed company aimed at taking over ailing newspapers.
His old group Local World was sold to Trinity Mirror in 2015.
National World has now commented following speculation that it may make an offer for JPI, which last week closed a £50m deal to off-load its prize title, the i, to the publisher of the Daily Mail.
As well as the News Letter, JPI Media also owns a string of local papers here such as the Lurgan Mail, the Newtownabbey Times and the Portadown Times.
In Scotland and England, the company owns titles such as Scotland on Sunday, the Edinburgh Evening News, Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman.
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Speculation about an approach by National World began when rival groups Newsquest and Reach stepped back from a potential takeover of JPI Media. According to the Guardian, Reach is understood to have made a bid of around £50m but then pulled out over concerns that JPI Media's portfolio had been valued too high.
Newsquest is thought to have had concerns over competition issues as it already owns titles in Scotland.
National World said: "The company confirms it is contemplating several acquisitions and has approached JPI following speculation that the sale process for the regional titles had not completed.
"There is no certainty that any transaction will proceed. A further announcement will be made as appropriate in due course."
The company said its strategy involved "consolidation and change". It said: "The company listed on the main market to create a modern platform for news publishing by implementing a new operating model using the latest technology.
"Its strategy will involve consolidation and change by combining digital technology innovation and traditional print assets to grow revenues by aggregation of audiences and reduce costs via shared services."
Mr Montgomery is a former pupil of Down High School. He went on to study history and politics at Queen's University, and also edited student newspaper The Gown.
His first job in a national newspaper was at the Daily Mirror. He went on to work at The Sun before returning to the Mirror group - though he later returned to News International.
Mr Montgomery then returned to the Mirror and took over as chief executive following the death of Robert Maxwell, staying in the job from 1992 to 1999.
He later set up an investment firm Mecom Group in 2000 to focus on mergers and acquisitions in Europe.
However, he stepped down from that business in 2011.