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February 21, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:57am

New owner of Cumberland and Westmorland Herald is ‘buyer we were hoping for’, says editor

By Charlotte Tobitt

The buyer of the 160-year-old Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, which went into administration earlier this month, has been revealed as local businessman Andy Barr.

Barr is the founder and managing director of Barrnon, which is based in the Cumbrian town of Appleby and provides engineering services and manufacturing for the nuclear, oil and gas industries.

The 45-year-old engineer told Press Gazette he wanted to buy the Herald to preserve its history and its ties to the community.

“I believe really truly that it informs the people who live here’s lives,” he said.

Barr, who has lived in Cumbria since the age of six, added that he also wanted to preserve local journalism jobs and had no current plans to cut jobs at the Herald as he was keen to keep it in its “current guise”.

The Herald faced financial trouble after an increasing deficit in its defined benefits pension scheme added to “longstanding pressures” facing regional print newspapers.

It has continued printing since falling into administration when six employees were made redundant with immediate effect.

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Barr’s purchase of the paper has saved 22 jobs.

“Clearly it’s had some difficulties in the past but I want to be positive and I want it to be a success,” Barr said of the Herald.

“I love the broadsheet format. When I was analysing the business I realised that there were cost savings to go down in size [to tabloid] but to me the look and feel of the Herald would be very different if it wasn’t in its current format.”

Herald editor Emily Atherton told Press Gazette the new ownership was an “absolutely fantastic result” for the team at the paper.

“Andy is the buyer that we were hoping for,” she said. “He’s allowing us to stay truly local. He’s got the Eden Valley at heart and that’s where the paper should be owned and where it should stay and it’s just absolutely fantastic.

“We are all over the moon – a good news story for once in journalism.”

Asked about Barr’s commitment to jobs at the Herald, Atherton said: “He’s somebody that wants to sustain jobs as much as anything else. He’s a businessman, he’s got lots of business acumen.

“He’s bringing that to the table as well but he’s also somebody who’s emotionally attached to the paper and like everybody here he feels it’s part of the fabric of this place.”

She added that the Herald had received hundreds of letters of support since it went into administration, and that it was now important that this level of support is maintained going forward to ensure its continued success after this “new beginning”.

Barr confirmed his commitment to buy the paper on Wednesday afternoon and the deal was completed just before 10am today.

He created Barrnon Media Ltd to encompass the Herald and plans to act in a chief executive-style role with no involvement “in any news story”.

Barrnon remains his “first responsibility”, he said, adding that he has a “good individual who will help me run the Herald on a day-to-day basis”.

Newsquest had announced its intention to launch a rival weekly called the Cumberland and Westmorland Gazette “in the absence of certainty” around the Herald’s future, but suspended its launch yesterday.

Howard Smith, associate partner at KPMG and joint administrator of the Herald, said: “The sale of this much-loved East Cumbrian paper to newly-incorporated Barrnon Media Limited marks a great outcome, preserving not only 22 jobs but also the paper’s 160-year history.

“A significant level of interest was received, testament to the strong affection for the Herald. Widely considered to be the cornerstone of the local communities it serves, it’s a real delight to see its future secured.”

The Herald celebrates the news on tomorrow’s front page: 

Cumberland and Westmorland Herald front page on 22 February 2020 as the title celebrates attracting a new owner

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