Troubled 'Examiner' newspaper bought by 'The Irish Times'
'The Irish Times' has finally agreed to buy the media assets of the financially troubled Landmark Media Group, the publisher of the Cork-based 'Irish Examiner' newspaper.
The move ends the ownership by the Crosbie family of the former 'Cork Examiner' newspaper title, which has been in their family since the 19th century.
However, the deal has been in the offing for some time and follows months of speculation.
AIB, Landmark Media's banker, has also supported a "significant debt restructuring", according to 'The Irish Times'. The company behind Landmark Media, Landmark Media Investments, had bank loans totalling €17.2m at the beginning of this year.
The deal, months in the making, will also include the 'Evening Echo' newspaper and seven regional titles.
Landmark also owns 75pc stakes in Waterford's WLR and Beat, as well as a 17.6pc stake in Cork station Red FM.
All the assets are being acquired by 'The Irish Times' The new owners described the planned acquisition as an "important strategic decision".
'The Irish Times' said it will "retain the core identity and independence of the respective news publishing titles".
"The overall increase in audience allows the group to build a digital platform with a strong reach, countrywide and internationally," it added.
The 'Irish Examiner' sold an average of 28,338 copies a day during the first six months of 2017, according to ABC circulation data.
'The Irish Times' said that it is "fully committed" to working with unions "on any restructuring proposals that will need to be made".
The managing director of Landmark Media, Tom Murphy, told staff yesterday that the sale is in the "best interest" of the group.
"Consolidation within the industry is an inevitable outcome and both Irish-owned groups will be best positioned to survive and prosper as part of a larger, stronger and better resource and unified entity," he said.
The regional titles being acquired by the 'Irish Times' are: the 'Roscommon Herald'; the 'Kildare Nationalist'; 'Waterford News & Star'; the 'Laois Nationalist'; the 'Naas and Newbridge Nationalist'; the 'Nationalist'; and the 'Western People'.
Landmark Media also owned the 'Wexford Echo', to which a liquidator was appointed during the year.
The deal with 'The Irish Times' also includes three websites that are wholly-owned by Landmark Media, and another in which it has a 75pc stake, Benchwarmers.ie. The other sites are irishexaminer.com, breakingnews.ie, and recruitireland.com.
The acquisition by 'The Irish Times' has to be cleared by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland; and the Minister for Communication, Denis Naughten.
No details of the financial terms of the deal were disclosed, but the enlarged group will have an annual turnover of about €100m and employ 900 people.
National Union of Journalists Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said he welcomed the assurances that had been provided by 'The Irish Times'.
"The devil is in the detail," he said adding the union will study the proposed acquisition.