JPI Media acquired by National World

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, January 4, 2021

One-time Mirror Group chief executive David Montgomery’s takeover vehicle National World has acquired JPI Media in a deal worth £10.2m.

Montgomery: "JPI’s historic publishing brands represent the best in journalism"
Montgomery: "JPI’s historic publishing brands represent the best in journalism"

The acquisition, which completed on Saturday (2 January), was satisfied with £5.2m in cash on completion and two deferred payments of £2.5m each on 31 March 2022 and 31 March 2023. The business has been acquired with no debt and has no historic defined benefit pension obligations.

JPI Group is the third largest publisher of regional newspapers and websites in the UK with over 100 newspapers including 13 daily newspapers. Its brands and websites include The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post, Sheffield Star, Edinburgh Evening News, Portsmouth News and Lancashire Evening Post.

National World has funded the acquisition from its own cash resources and by the issue of £8.425m of loan notes. It will provide £6.5m working capital facilities to JPI Group post-completion.

GCA Altium advised JPI Media on the sale. It had also advised on the sale of JPI’s i newspaper in 2019 to Daily Mail owner DMGT.

For the year ending 2 January 2021, JPI Group will have estimated revenues of £85m and EBITDA before exceptional costs of £6m. Its estimated digital revenue for the period is £17m.

On Friday (1 January), Mark Hollinshead was appointed chief commercial officer of National World and Daniel Cammiade was appointed as a non-executive director.

Montgomery said: “JPI’s historic publishing brands represent the best in journalism and have reliably served their communities and supported local businesses, in some cases for centuries, and never more than in the last year.

“National World will uphold this tradition and implement modern technology to grow the business across a wider footprint based on high quality, unique content.

“I am pleased with the appointment of Mark as chief commercial officer and welcome Daniel to the board. We have a very experienced board with extensive knowledge in digital and print publishing to deliver our transformational strategy for growth.”

In an internal note issued to staff, JPI Media chief executive David King said the terms and conditions of employment for the company’s staff are not affected by the sale.

He added: “I would like to thank all of you for the exceptional commitment and passion you show every day and I believe that our titles, staff, audiences and other stakeholders can now benefit from being part of this new organisation.

“Over the last two years, we have made great progress with our digital strategy, changing the way we work, how we serve our audiences, diversifying our revenue streams and supporting our advertising customers.

“While 2020 has been a very difficult year, over the coming months we must continue to build on the momentum that you have created.

“The publishing industry is undergoing a fundamental shift and being part of National World will help sustain our business and local media for the longer term. I am looking forward to managing the transition to the new owners.”

National World was first named as a prospective buyer of JPI Media’s publishing assets in summer 2019 and was thought to be the frontrunner in the race to acquire the titles as of December that year.

In February 2020, JPI Media had said it was no longer “actively exploring” a sale but then put itself up for sale again in September.

A deal was expected to be imminent by October – with National World and Archant in the frame as prospective buyers – when DMG Media acquired JPI Media’s three newspaper printing sites.

DMG Media said at the time that it would continue to print JPI Media’s regional newspaper titles, as well as titles for other publishers, but had ruled itself out of discussions to acquire JPI Media’s regional titles.

In a series of tweets, broadcaster and journalist Andrew Neil described the deal as “one of the most egregious examples of value destruction in newspaper history”, adding that JPI – formerly Johnston Press – had bought The Scotsman Group alone for £160m in 2005.

The Scotsman had been purchased for £80m 10 years before that. So we (I was publisher for those 10 years) doubled its value in a decade. Add in another £25m for the magnificent building we constructed (which JP did not buy but rented before moving to much reduced premises).”

He added: “So after a decade of massive valued added, JPI Media managed to destroy most of it in the following 15 years. The Scottish political and media establishment has been curiously quiet about JPI Media’s appalling record. Perhaps because they were complicit.

“Alex Salmond in 2005 encouraged JP to buy The Scotsman. Just get Andrew Neil out the door and sales will soar, he assured them. In fact, sales went from 75,000 to under 20,000. So the Salmond/JP strategy didn’t go exactly to plan. In fact, they wasted a great Scottish institution.”

Johnston Press was sold in a pre-pack deal in November 2018, and became JPI Media. 

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