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Alex Salmond dropped from Johnston Press takeover plans

Norwegian entrepreneur Christen Ager-Hanssen had previously said he wanted to make the former first minister chairman of the board at the publisher.

Alex Salmond has been dropped from plans for a takeover of the newspaper group which publishes the Scotsman and the i, it has emerged.

Norwegian investor Christen Ager-Hanssen had previously said he planned to make the former Scottish first minister the chairman of the board at Johnston Press.

But now he said he wanted someone wth “more knowledge and understanding about the technology element of the media, rather than a public figurehead”.

It comes after the newspaper publishing firm confirmed it received a letter from Mr Ager-Hanssen’s Custos Group in Friday.

The Custos Group, which owns more than 20% of Johnston Press, said there was speculation the company was going to be put into administration.

Mr Ager-Hanssen explained on Twitter it was the “change in circumstances and the skill set now needed to save the ailing Johnson Press that made me change my mind” about Mr Salmond’s involved in his planned takeover.

He stated: “Now we are going into restructuring, we’d like to have a board with more knowledge and understanding about the technology element of the media rather than a public figurehead.”

He added the former SNP leader, who lost his seat at Westminster in the 2017 snap general election, is a “great guy”, stating: “I see Alex as a friend and I have a lot of respect for him.”

Johnston Press, which also publishes the Yorkshire Post, is currently looking at ways to refinance £220 million of debt that becomes repayable in June next year.

The firm recently signalled a fresh round of cost-cutting, saying a challenging market has put pressure on revenues, which dropped nearly 10% over 2017.

Earlier in July the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom ruled Mr Salmond’s chat show on the Kremlin backed RT TV channel had breached rules by presenting messages as having come from viewers when they had been written by members of production staff.

Speaking about The Alex Salmond Show, an Ofcom spokesman said: “We found this programme broke our rules by misleading its audience.”

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