The owner of The Scotsman has received takeover offers from the rival newspaper publisher Archant and a veteran media executive as a long-awaited industry consolidation enters a new phase.
Sky News has learnt that Archant and a consortium comprising the former Mirror boss David Montgomery and turnaround investor Endless tabled bids for JPIMedia ahead of a deadline this week.
The offers pave the way for a change of ownership for some of Britain’s best-known local newspapers, including the Yorkshire Post.
Norwich-based Archant, which publishes the Eastern Daily Press, recently agreed a rescue deal with Rcapital, and is seen by analysts as the likeliest buyer of JPIMedia because of the potential cost savings that a merger would generate.
Mr Montgomery created a listed vehicle called National World to acquire media assets, but lost out in the Archant auction.
Other newspaper industry players such as Reach – formerly known as Trinity Mirror – are not participating in the auction.
JPIMedia employs close to 2000 people across the UK and publishes scores of titles, many of which have switched to digital-only editions in recent years.
Since late 2018, the company has been owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors including Goldentree Asset Management, CarVal and Fidelity, when the then Johnston Press collapsed into administration.
The insolvency process which led to the creation of JPIMedia involved writing off £135m debt, leaving it with £85m of borrowings.
Its new owners also injected £35m of new capital into the company to put it on a more sustainable footing.
A voluntary redundancy programme and overhaul of the company’s property portfolio have since been implemented by the company’s new owners.
Last November, the Daily Mail‘s publisher bought the national newspaper i from JPIMedia for almost £50m.
The prospects for Britain’s regional newspaper publishers have appeared bleak for years, with declining advertising revenues and the impact of Google and Facebook’s online presence in news exerting a stark toll on traditional local outlets.
Reach, the UK’s biggest regional publisher as well as the owner of The Daily Mirror and Daily Express, recently announced hundreds of job cuts.
GCA Altium, the investment bank, is overseeing the auction.
None of those involved in the process would comment.