Newspaper group sold for €5.5m

Celtic Media Group, publisher of the Anglo-Celt, Meath Chronicle, and Westmeath Examiner newspapers, has been bought in a management buyout for €5.5m.

Celtic Media’s management team led by chief executive Frank Mulrennan, 51, who will take a 36% stake in the new venture, bought the company out of receivership, which was initiated on Wednesday by the Scottish-based board of directors of Celtic Media Group. The company’s finance director, Frank Long, 47, is understood to have 26% holding in the new company giving the pair control of the group. IBI Corporate Finance advised the management team on the acquisition.

The assets being acquired were put together at a cost of close to €65m in the early 2000s by the Scottish newspaper group Dunfermline and other investors who created Celtic Media.

They bought the Meath Chronicle for €30m in 2001, the Anglo Celt for €15m in 2004, and the Westmeath Examiner, Westmeath Independent, and Offaly Independent, for €20m in 2004.

It is understood Lloyds Banking Group who are backing the buyout with a €5.5m loan have taken a hit of close to €32.5m in the receivership process.

A statement issued by the Celtic Media Group said the deal secures the future of the group’s newspapers, its printing and publishing businesses and the jobs of its 125 employees.

“All trade creditors and suppliers will be paid in full under the terms of the receivership, while the terms and conditions of employees will be unaffected by the change in ownership.”

Speaking after briefing staff yesterday, Mr Mulrennan said: “We are delighted that Celtic Media Group’s newspapers and its printing and publishing businesses are now under the full ownership of Irish management.

“Our group has consistently generated operating profits in the teeth of the recession but it suffered from a legacy debt burden that was unsustainable.

“This burden has been addressed fully and the group now has a financial structure that is appropriate to face the ongoing challenges presented by the current business environment.”

The new team also acquired a printing plant, located near Navan, Co Meath, with the Irish Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People as anchor clients.

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