Time Inc UK sale confirmed

By Jo Francis, Tuesday 27 February 2018

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Time Inc UK's new owner has pledged to bring "clarity and simplicity" to the business, which has become the latest publishing group to be acquired by a private equity house.

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Speculation that Epiris, together with New Scientist chairman Sir Bernard Gray, was poised to acquire the £247m turnover business has proved correct. The deal became official yesterday, with a short announcement from Meredith confirming that Time Inc UK had been sold for an undisclosed sum.  

Time Inc UK was originally put up for sale last autumn, but sale talks dragged on, and in the meantime parent company Time Inc US was sold to American media group Meredith.

Time Inc UK is home to a host of household name brands including Country Life, Ideal Home, NME, Marie Claire, and Woman's Weekly. Its two entertainment titles alone, What's on TV and TV Times, together sell more than 1m magazines a week. Its brands also have a huge online reach.  

Chief executive Marcus Rich remains in post, while Gray becomes executive chairman.  

Time Inc UK is the second business to be acquired through Epiris Fund II, the first was the Portals De La Rue specialist paper business acquired for £61m at the beginning of the month. The fund can commit up to £200m to any single deal. Various possible price tags have been attached to the Time Inc UK business, varying from £150m to £120m.  

PrintWeek understands that Time Inc UK's £34.2m defined benefit pension scheme liability remains with the US parent company.  

In a statement, Epiris managing partner Alex Fortescue said: "This deal is a complex corporate carve-out of the type in which we specialise. The business itself offers plentiful scope for transformation through operational improvement and M&A. We are thrilled to have got Fund II off to such a strong start.” 

Epiris partner Chris Hanna added: "At its heart this is a diverse, robust and cash-generative business. We intend to bring clarity and simplicity to it, to focus on maximising the potential of its high-quality portfolio. We are excited about implementing our plans in partnership with Bernard, Marcus and the team.” 

Industry suppliers to the publisher have been eagerly awaiting clarity on the future for Time Inc UK for the past five months.  

Walstead-owned Wyndeham Group took over as Time Inc UK's sole print supplier after Polestar unravelled two years ago. Chief executive Paul Utting said: "Congratulations to Marcus and the team for completing the transaction. These things are always time-consuming. I'm sure the team will now be looking forward to focusing on the business and making sure the transaction is a success." 

Time Inc UK has recently restructured its production team, with the size of the team effectively halved and a number of long-standing staffers departing from the business as a result. Commercial operations director Mark McCartney now leads the combined advertising and editorial production function.  

A source close to the situation said: "It will be really interesting to see how this separation is managed. The Time Inc back office functions were relocated to India a few years ago so things like paper controlling are currently handled there, but that function comes under Meredith now." 

 

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