Johnston Press takeover ‘secures jobs and future of its titles’
Creditors have agreed to inject £35 million of new money into the business and reduce its net debt level by £135 million.
Jobs and newspaper titles at Johnston Press have been saved after the company was bought by creditors.
Newly formed company JPIMedia announced it had acquired the publisher on Saturday after it put itself into administration.
As part of the transaction, creditors have agreed to inject £35 million of new money into the business and reduce its net debt level by £135 million.
In a statement, JPIMedia said the acquisition of Johnston Press “secures jobs and (the) future of its brands and titles”.
“JPIMedia’s shareholders recognise the vital role that local and regional media plays in the communities they serve and remain committed to protecting and enhancing the value of the business in the future,” it added.
The National Union of Journalists earlier demanded “meaningful guarantees” on the future of jobs and titles following the administration process.
As a result of the sale, an assessment period has been triggered for the employees on the defined-benefit pension scheme.
We will focus on ensuring the group's titles continue to publish the high-quality journalism we are known for and which has never been more important David King
Union officials previously warned any changes to future payments in line with pension protection fund (PPF) payment rules would by a “terrible blow” to affected staff.
JPIMedia said it will offer a defined contribution pension scheme to all employees.
But a statement from Custos Group, Johnston Press’s largest shareholder, accused the publisher’s board of acting out of self-interest.
It said: “Their actions today, ensuring their own jobs are safe, but sacrificing the pensions of their loyal staff, many of whom will no doubt also lose their jobs under the new ownership of a US hedge fund, is simply a disgrace and a vulgar display of the worst elements of capitalism.”
David King, the publisher’s former chief executive, retains his position at JPIMedia.
He said the “important” sale would ensure “operations can continue as normal, with employees’ rights maintained, suppliers paid, and newspapers printed”.
“We will focus on ensuring the group’s titles continue to publish the high-quality journalism we are known for and which has never been more important,” he said.
John Ensall, director of JPIMedia, said: “In the absence of another financial solution being available for the business, we are pleased to have reached this agreement to acquire Johnston Press, to protect the value of the business, preserve jobs and allow for the uninterrupted publication of its websites and newspapers.
Local papers are the glue that binds our communities together - the new company taking on Johnston Press must respect the critical role journalism plays in our democracy & give long term assurances on the future of these titles & #NUJ members’ livelihoods https://t.co/yYRahjHD4i— NUJ (@NUJofficial) November 17, 2018
“As part of this transaction we have reduced the level of net debt very significantly and invested £35 million to put the business in a far stronger financial position.
“We look forward to working with the management team as they embark on the next chapter in Johnston Press’s story in the media sector, with the resources to support local and national journalism and embrace the digital future.”
One of Britain’s biggest publishers, Johnston Press had more than 200 titles in print and online, including the i, The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman.
The company announced it was placing itself in administration on Friday after it failed to find an appropriate buyer.
Speculation the publisher might be sold had been growing since it announced a strategic review in March 2017.
The company had been looking to refinance £220 million of debt due to be repaid in June next year.
In an email sent to reassure staff, Mr King said that, at its peak, the company’s debt reached £793 million.
Employees were earlier told they would continue to be paid and should turn up to work as normal, with their contracts to be transferred to the new company.
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “It is important that people in Scotland have access to a wide range of local and national media sources.
“I am pleased to hear Johnston Press has been bought out of administration in a deal that promises to secure jobs and put the business in a stronger financial position.”