News Letter title and jobs saved in takeover

The Metro Building at the back of Belfast City Hall which now houses the Belfast News Letter. Picture: Diane Magill
The Metro Building at the back of Belfast City Hall which now houses the Belfast News Letter. Picture: Diane Magill

Jobs and newspaper titles at Johnston Press, the owners of the News Letter, have been saved after the company was bought by creditors.

Newly formed company JPIMedia announced it had acquired the publisher on Saturday after it put itself into administration.

As part of the transaction, creditors have agreed to inject £35 million of new money into the business and reduce its net debt level by £135 million.

The new company also takes over the Derry Journal and a number of weekly papers in NI.

In a statement, JPIMedia said the acquisition of Johnston Press “secures jobs and (the) future of its brands and titles”.

“JPIMedia’s shareholders recognise the vital role that local and regional media plays in the communities they serve and remain committed to protecting and enhancing the value of the business in the future,” it added.

As a result of the sale, an assessment period has been triggered for the employees on the defined-benefit pension scheme.

Union officials previously warned any changes to future payments in line with pension protection fund (PPF) payment rules would by a “terrible blow” to affected staff.

JPIMedia said it will offer a defined contribution pension scheme to all employees.

David King, the publisher’s former chief executive, retains his position at JPIMedia.

He said the “important” sale would ensure “operations can continue as normal, with employees’ rights maintained, suppliers paid, and newspapers printed”.

“We will focus on ensuring the group’s titles continue to publish the high-quality journalism we are known for and which has never been more important,” he said.

John Ensall, director of JPIMedia, said: “In the absence of another financial solution being available for the business, we are pleased to have reached this agreement to acquire Johnston Press, to protect the value of the business, preserve jobs and allow for the uninterrupted publication of its websites and newspapers.

“As part of this transaction we have reduced the level of net debt very significantly and invested £35 million to put the business in a far stronger financial position.”

One of Britain’s biggest publishers, Johnston Press had more than 200 titles in print and online, including the News Letter, i, The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman.