NUJ in talks with Johnston Press following news of sale
11 October 2018
The NUJ is speaking to management following the announcement that it has puts itself up for sale.
The newspaper group which publishes 200 titles including the i, the Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, Belfast News Letter, and Sheffield Star, put out a statement saying:
“Since commencing the strategic review of financing options first announced in March 2017, the company has focussed on exploring all options available to it in relation to its £220 million due for repayment on 1 June 2019. Pursuant to this strategic review and in order to assess all strategic options to maximise value to its stakeholders, the board of Johnston Press announces today that it has decided to seek offers for the company.”
The company said it would be considering initial expressions of interest over the next four to six weeks. Investment bankers Rothschild are handling the sale and hope to sell the company as a single entity. David King, chief executive officer, said there will be no changes to the day-to-day running of the business.
A spokesperson for the NUJ’s Johnston Press group chapel said:
"We've all known for some time now that the company being put up for sale was one of the possible consequences of the strategic review, but it doesn't make today's announcement any less unsettling for members working for Johnston Press and those whose have money invested in its old defined benefits pension scheme. Our priority, as always, is to support our network of workplace reps and to ensure that we do all we can to get the best possible deal for every NUJ member, whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
“The continuing uncertainty for staff and former staff of Johnston Press is very difficult and today's surprise announcement that the company is formally up for sale will compound that. There will be a whole range of questions about the implications of the announcement and we will continue to press the company for meaningful consultation about decisions that are being made as the process unfolds."
A Johnston Press editor quoted by the Press Gazette said:
“Ultimately we’ve all seen this coming for some time. It’s a consequence of the various bad decisions made by the people who run Johnston Press over several years, from the unprofitable newspapers in Ireland that John Fry decided to buy, to the spiralling debts that Ashley Highfield delivered for his £3m a year pay packet. It is classic JP of course that we’ve read about this elsewhere before we got any announcement from the company. Equally it’s typical of the company that the FAQs they sent to employees are made up of 20 questions yet don’t address what this will mean for staff until question ten. Hopefully we’ll still have jobs at the end of this and our pensions won’t be hammered. And no doubt the likes of Highfield, Fry and King won’t find it hurts their pensions and pay packets one iota.”
The news comes as Dame Frances Cairncross is writing a review of the sustainablity of the UK's press.