The sale was announced yesterday for €8.7m of 14 newspaper titles, including the Leitrim Observer and Longford Leader, that were purchased in a €200m spending spree during the Celtic Tiger era.
The Leitrim Observer and Longford Leader are among 14 newspaper titles in Ireland that have been purchased by Iconic Newspapers Ltd, a company run by British advertising executive Malcolm Denmark
The titles were owned by debt laden Johnston Press, which owns more than 250 publications across Britain and Ireland and who have entered into an agreement to purchase titles including the Limerick Leader, Leinster Express, Kilkenny People and the Donegal Democrat to Mr Denmark’s company following months of negotiations. Mr Denmark has suggested that he will invest in the titles and has also confirmed that the price of the deal was £7.2 million (€8.7 million) in cash.
The figure is just a fraction of the sums Johnston Press spent on buying the newspapers during the boom.
In 2005, it spent €139 million on the Leinster Leader group of titles alone, while its total outlay is understood to be more than €200 million.
A collapse in advertising revenues and movement to electronic media since then has sharply reduced the value of regional newspapers.
The Johnson Press parent company, which last week announced a group-wide loss of £287 million for 2013, took an impairment charge of £13.8 million (€16.7 million) last year on the value of its titles in the Republic.
Circulation figures have dropped drastically for the majority of regional newspapers in Ireland in recent times with a number of titles withdrawing this year from the company that independently measured circulation figures – ABC (Audited Bureau of Circulation).
It is reported that in some instances weekly sales figures have halved for a number of well known titles.
The sell-off by Johnson Press is part of the strategy being pursued by the companies digital-focused chief executive Ashley Highfield as he seeks to ease the burden of the company’s £300 million debt pile.
“The disposal of our trade and assets in the Republic of Ireland will increase our ability to focus on the growth of our business in the UK and in particular our digital initiatives, in line with our stated strategy,” said Mr Highfield.
New owner Malcolm Denmark said “It’s really important that we are not part of a corporate group. I am not trying to bring an English solution to Ireland”. “This is Iconic Newspapers and we believe we have bought iconic brands.”