Judge to rule on ‘Business Post’ survival plan

The investor poised to take over the Sunday Business Post will plough €750,000 in to the newspaper if the High Court approves the rescue buyout package.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly will next week consider whether to approve the plan which could see the paper, which employs 76 people full time, continue to publish. Staff have accepted revised terms and conditions and nine voluntary redundancies have taken place. The investment is thought to involve media executive Paul Cooke.

In the commercial court yesterday Ross Fanning BL, for the examiner, said he would seek an early hearing for the next stage of the process so the examinership can be finalised and the company can trade normally.

The investor was also anxious for an early hearing before the next weekend publication so it could put a new stamp on the subsequent Sunday edition.

The judge said it was desirable there would be an early hearing for the court to consider whether to approve the rescue plan. He extended protection for Post Publications Ltd, owner of the Sunday Business Post, to next Wednesday when the court will make its decision.

Under the plan, super preferential creditors including Revenue will be paid the agreed debt in full while unsecured creditors — the largest of which is Irish Life, which is owed €2m relating to the office premises at Harcourt St, Dublin — will get 2.5% of the agreed debt. Freelance contributors will get 15% of what they are owed, including journalist Vincent Browne, who is owed €25,000.

In an affidavit, examiner Michael McAteer said the agreement with the investor is subject to conditions including Commercial Court approval. Mr McAteer said there are also commercial and regulatory conditions.

He said media reports since the investment agreement was signed appear to have ignored these conditions and he assured the court that he had stressed to all stakeholders that confirmation of the investment scheme was conditional on court approval.

“I have not been in anyway responsible for the media reports which have appeared in connection with this matter which have erroneously given the impression the success of the examinership process is assured and that court approval is a formality.”

He said where it was necessary to disclose the terms of the investment agreement to Business Post staff there was no realistic way of preventing the dissemination of the terms.

He said it is a requirement of the investor that all of the remaining employees agree to revised terms and all but four who are out of the country have done so.

He said the minimum threshold of at least one impaired class of creditors voting in favour of the examiner’s proposals had been passed and it was now open to the court to hold a hearing for the purpose of confirming, if appropriate, the rescue plan.

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