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Trinity Mirror closes titles while negotiating Bullivant buyout

3 August 2009

The Trinity Mirror group (TM) has been accused of closing down weekly titles in the West Midlands while negotiations were in hand to sell them as going concerns.

Chris Bullivant, chairman of Bullivant Media, which owns other weeklies in the region, has released a series of email messages showing that he was offering to save at least four of the nine titles that have closed in the last couple of weeks.

Text from the emails has today (3 August) been published by Roy Greenslade on his Media Guardian blog. The correspondence was with Phil Machray, TM's director of corporate development. The replies have not been published.

Roy Greenslade writes that the company has not responded to the allegations and the NUJ is demanding that it answers the questions that are raised.

The four titles are in Burton, Walsall, Lichfield and Tamworth. Chris Bullivant says he had raised £400,000 in capital to keep the titles going and a sale would have saved Trinity Mirror £1 million in redundancy and other costs.

He wrote:

"You have chosen to close them and offer no explanation either for taking that course of action or for refusing to continue our dialogue… I cannot believe that an organisation of Trinity Mirror's size and reputation cannot continue to produce these titles while it is in discussion with at least one genuine potential purchaser.
"I am angered by what I perceive as the cavalier way TM close venerable newspapers and dispense with many valuable personnel without seeming to 'give a damn'."

Chris Morley, NUJ North of England Organiser, who for years was a journalist and Father of the union chapel on Trinity Mirror's Birmingham Post and Mail, said:

"People in the towns evacuated by Trinity Mirror with the closure of the Midland weeklies will no doubt ask why they lost their newspapers when there was a likely buyer knocking on the door. The shareholders of the group may well also be asking why hundreds of thousands of pounds potentially on offer was shunned.
"Our members are certainly angry that many good weekly titles, that have provided the career start for generations of journalists – myself included – have been lost without every effort being made to secure their futures.
"The company should come clean about its dealings and tell us why more was not done to save those titles it has closed."

In June, the NUJ chapel in Birmingham put forward a business plan to save the weeklies and the 94 jobs TM said it wanted to ditch. Instead, the company pressed on with its closure plans and the chapel – together with the sister chapel in Coventry – voted for strike action against the threatened redundancies.

The strikes were called off on 28 and 29 July, just two days before it was due, when the company agreed not to enforce any compulsory job losses.

Tags: , newspapers, trinity mirror, bullivant media, closure, cuts, sale, local newspapers, burton, walsall, lichfield, tamworth