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New Sunday Independent owner says paper was profitable but ‘saddled with inter-company debt’

By Freddy Mayhew

The new owner of the Sunday Independent has said the newspaper’s core business was profitable but it had been hampered by debts in excess of £250,000, which have now been restructured.

Peter Masters said he was a regular reader of the 200-year-old weekly title, which focuses on local and regional sport in the West Country, and stepped in after realising it had stopped printing.

The Truro City football club co-owner told Press Gazette: “I realised two Sundays ago there was no Sunday Independent, so I started making inquiries.

“I found the underlying business was profitable and it was saddled with some inter-company debt, so along with the potential administrators I managed to restructure the company and offload the debt, which made the whole thing viable.”

Former Sunday Independent owner Brian Doel bought a majority (51 per cent) stake in the paper from Tindle Newspapers in 2014. He died last year aged 70.

The title’s business model relies on newsstand sales and print advertising, while its website is limited to promoting print copies and paid-for e-editions.

Masters said that broadly “everything is the same”, but since his takeover he has announced a 20p rise in the cover price to £1.20 and has brought in managing director Colin Bradbury who will oversee the paper.

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A staff of 17, including about 10 journalists, will continue to work on the Cornwall-based title after facing an uncertain future as the Sunday Independent published its “last” edition on 2 April.

Businessman Masters said the paper “runs at a profit” but previously “lacked enough capital for future investments”.

He said: “To me it was just the case of: ‘Is there an underlying business that can be saved to take it forward?’ And my personal belief is yes, there is definitely a future for the Independent.”

“It wasn’t broken so didn’t need to be fixed. Everything needed to run a successful paper was there, in one place. Looking at it from the outside with a fresh pair of eyes, [I could see] it was saddled with inter-company debt and we can now look forward to a healthy future.”

He added there was “scope for improvement” and would be looking at “putting modern technology into the business” including looking at boosting its online presence.

The paper’s weekly circulation is 12,000 copies, according to Masters, who said his immediate plans were “getting the circulation up and giving people value for money”.

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