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December 16, 2016updated 19 Dec 2016 8:23am

Iliffe Media set to buy 13 local newspaper titles from Johnston Press in £17m deal

By Freddy Mayhew

Iliffe Media is set to buy 13 newspaper titles from rival publisher Johnston Press in a deal worth £17m.

The family-owned publisher says the titles are a “natural extension” and a “good geographical fit” for its Cambridge Independent newspaper, launched in September.

The deal comprises the entirety of Johnston Press’s East Anglia publishing division and is subject to shareholder approval.

It is expected to complete in mid-January 2017.

The titles (and their associated websites) concerned in the takeover are as follows:

  • Lynn News
  • Fenland Citizen
  • Diss Express
  • Bury Free Press
  • Haverhill Echo
  • Newmarket Journal
  • Suffolk Free Press
  • Stamford Mercury
  • Rutland Times
  • Bourne Local
  • Grantham Journal
  • Spalding Guardian
  • Lincs Free Press

Edward Iliffe, chief executive of Iliffe Media, said “We are delighted to have acquired these well respected local newspapers.

“Iliffe Media, with its long heritage as an independent family run media business, firmly believes in the future of local newspaper publishing across all platforms.

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“We’re looking forward to welcoming our new colleagues.”

A spokesperson said no staff would be affected by the changes and that the newly acquired titles would be produced out of two separate hubs, while printing is “immediately” transferred to Iliffe’s Cambridge presses.

Ricky Allan, managing director of the Cambridge Independent, will take on added responsibility for the titles in Bury, Newmarket, Diss, Haverhill and Sudbury.

Richard Parkinson, a former regional managing director of Johnston Press, will join Iliffe Media in January in the new role of managing director (Midlands), responsible for publications in Kings Lynn, Wisbech, Spalding, Grantham, Stamford and Rutland.

Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press said: “This disposal [of titles] marks a major milestone in our divestment strategy and puts us firmly on the path of refocusing our activities on areas with the greatest growth potential.

“The disposal will also reduce our net debt whilst putting us on a stronger footing. I would like to thank the staff based at these Titles for their hard work and loyalty over the years and we wish them well for a successful future.”

The deal follows Johnston Press’s decision to sell on three newspapers covering the Isle of Man to Tindle Newspapers for £4.25m.

Iliffe News and Media joined Trinity Mirror and Daily Mail and General Trust to launch Local World in 2012. At the time it owned and published the Cambridge News.

Trinity Mirror bought out the group last year for £220m and backed out of a deal to sell the Cambridge News and nine other newspapers in the area back to Iliffe.

As a result, the family-owned publisher rebranded as Iliffe Media and launched the Cambridge Independent as a rival to the Trinity Mirror-owned News.

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