Sunday 17 December 2017

Buying spree in boom, slump in revenue led to crippling €25m debt

Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

THE demise of Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) has been rumoured for weeks.

The company, which ran up huge debts during the boom, has struggled with an expensive deal that required the printing of too many newspapers as well as a downturn in advertising and circulation.

TCH is best-known for the 'Irish Examiner' and 'Evening Echo' newspapers, but it expanded greatly in the past 13 years.

Under former chief executive Anthony Dinan, the group accumulated regional titles at a startling rate. When it paid €10m for the Sunday Business Post in 2002, it was the sixth paper it had bought in barely two years.

At the time, Mr Dinan spoke of his pride in adding the Sunday title to the group and promised more would come – and more did.

In 2003 the company paid £1.7m (€2m) for the UK-based 'Irish Post', while it added a host of other titles. All in all, by 2008 TCH had at least a stake in 18 newspapers, five radio stations, and a string of websites such as Recruit Ireland.

Then the tide began to turn. With the downturn, advertising revenue began to plummet, along with readership.

The 'Irish Examiner' had an audited circulation of 56,441 at the end of 2006. The 'Sunday Business Post' circulation was 53,860.

By the end of 2012, the 'Irish Examiner's' figure had slumped to 39,555, while the 'Business Post' had fallen by a similar amount to 39,416.

The regional titles also took a battering. 'The Kingdom' in Kerry was shuttered, as was the 'Irish Post', which collapsed under debts of €2.3m before being resurrected.

Other titles, such as the 'Sligo Weekender' and 'Newry Democrat' were sold in 2010.

By that stage, AIB was getting anxious about the €25m it was owed by TCH. Talks with the bank went on for months before yesterday's complex solution was finally announced.

Irish Independent

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