Iliffe Media has acquired KM Media Group as the Kent publisher struggled under massive “pension liabilities” that had impacted on investment.
The group produces nine paid-for and four free newspapers including the award-winning Kent Messenger series and the Kentish Gazette, established in 1717.
It also runs kentonline.co.uk, which has 140,014 daily average unique browsers, according to ABC figures, as well as the KMFM radio network, which it claims reaches 164,000 weekly listeners.
In a statement today, KM Media Group said Iliffe Media had acquired its “entire shareholding”.
This is the latest in a run of acquisitions for Iliffe after it launched paid-for weekly the Cambridge Independent in September last year as a rival to Trinity Mirror’s Cambridge News.
As Iliffe News and Media, the publisher joined with Trinity Mirror and the Daily Mail General Trust to create Local World in 2012, which was then bought out by Trinity Mirror in a £240m deal in November 2014.
The publisher later rebranded to Iliffe Media.
In January it bought Velvet and IQ magazines from marketing agency Cubiqdesign for an undisclosed fee. A month later it bought 13 titles from Johnston Press in a deal worth £17m.
David Fordham, former chief executive of Iliffe News and Media, led the talks with KM Media Group on behalf of Iliffe Media. He has now been appointed as non-executive director to the board of KM Media Group.
Fordham said: “This acquisition represents the latest stage in the continued expansion of Iliffe Media and further demonstrates Edward Iliffe’s personal belief and commitment in the future of local media, across all formats.”
Iliffe Media chairman Edward Iliffe said: “We very much look forward to working with the management team at the KM and continuing to evolve KM’s trusted brand and highly valued local media, through investing in journalism and producing quality publications, websites and broadcast content that will be engaging to readers, listeners, viewers and advertisers alike.”
The deal was driven by KM Media Group’s “long-standing issues” around its final salary pension scheme, which closed in 1993.
KM Media Group chairman Geraldine Allinson said the deal “would allow KM to continue to evolve and bring about much needed investment to maintain its independence and continue to serve the people of Kent with trusted news and other valued content”.
She added: “The directors and I believe this deal represents the best possible outcome for our staff and customers.
“Although there is some personal sadness for me and my family that our pension liabilities have led us to this position, in Iliffe we have found a publisher which shares our belief in the importance of local media.
“The Iliffe family have extensive experience and heritage in local media, publishing and printing dating back to 1891, and have very similar values and ethos to us at KM.
“We believe they will be great custodians of our media portfolio here in Kent.”
The full list of titles, licences and broadcast entities involved in the deal are:
- Kent Messenger Series
- Medway Messenger
- Kentish Gazette Series and Faversham News
- Sittingbourne Messenger
- Sittingbourne News Extra
- Kentish Express Series
- Folkestone and Hythe Express
- Gravesend and Dartford Messenger
- East Kent Mercury and Dover Mercury
- Kent Business
- Messenger Extra
- Thanet Extra
- Medway Extra
- Canterbury Extra
- KentOnline network (incorporating KentOnline, Kent Business, My Kent Family, Kent Homes, KentJobs, kmfm.co.uk)
- kmfm Ashford
- kmfm Canterbury
- kmfm Maidstone
- kmfm Medway
- kmfm Shepway and White Cliffs
- kmfm Thanet
- kmfm West Kent
- kmfm DAB.