JPI Media is reportedly in talks over selling the i newspaper and its regional titles after telling staff earlier this year that “no formal sales process” was open.
The publisher of titles formerly owned by Johnston Press has set a Monday deadline for preliminary bids in an auction for its titles, according to Sky News.
The broadcaster has also reported that Mediahuis, which took over Irish publisher Independent News and Media in April, and rival regional publishers Newsquest and Archant could be among bidders for titles such as The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post.
News of the planned sales comes two months after JPI Media chief executive David King told staff in an email, seen by Press Gazette, that there was “no formal sale process underway”.
Press Gazette understands that staff were not informed of plans to sell titles.
A source said: “In May we were told that JPI Media was not involved in a formal sales process. Once again, we have discovered the opposite is true – not from the company, but from other media.”
A JPI Media spokesperson said in a statement today: “The Board of Directors has recently appointed a financial adviser to better assess the current and future prospects for the business and its titles.
“We believe that our industry is undergoing substantial change and we are not immune from the changing trends in news consumption and rise of digital news alongside the decline in print advertising and circulation.
“Consolidation within the regional media industry is necessary, which is why we are actively exploring a number of options open to us.
“We will provide a further update in due course.”
King wrote to staff this evening to update them on the sales process, following stories in the press.
JPI Media was formed by Johnston Press bondholders who bought the assets of the publisher in a pre-pack administration deal last year.
The investors agreed to wipe out £135m of the publisher’s debt and extend the deadline on the outstanding £85m debt to December 2023.
Office space has also been slashed forcing many staff to either work remotely or relocate while paywalls have been rolled out at regional titles, including The Scotsman and Blackpool Gazette.
Staff at the The Scotsman hit out at the publisher late last month over redundancies and “constant cost-cutting”, questioning how they could “possibly produce their newspapers under what would reasonably be considered intolerable conditions”.