The sale of the Irish Examiner to The Irish Times as part of a package of media interests will be good for jobs, the newspaper brands and for the industry in general, both parties to the deal have said.
The comments came after staff briefings at both titles yesterday during which it was confirmed that the acquisition by The Irish Times DAC of all Landmark Media assets has concluded.
The Irish Times now owns the Irish Examiner and the Evening Echo, all of the group’s regional titles including the weekly Waterford News & Star, Roscommon Herald, Western People, The Nationalist, Kildare Nationalist, Laois Nationalist, Naas and Newbridge Nationalist, its websites breakingnews.ie, irishexaminer.com, recruitireland.com, and 75% of benchwarmers.ie, and its radio station interests which include 75% of WLR and BEAT FM, and 17.6% of RedFM.
The deal was agreed in principle last December, approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in April, and later cleared by Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten which was the final regulatory clearance required for the acquisition to go ahead. The value of the deal has not been disclosed.
Irish Examiner staff were addressed by Landmark Media chief executive Tom Murphy, by Landmark Media shareholder Ted Crosbie, and by his son Tom Crosbie, the chairman of Landmark Media.
Mr Murphy, who is leaving the business, described the “last strand of the Crosbie family” involved in the business as “fantastic supporters of the ethos, concepts and standards of quality journalism”.
“They have been a beacon to the industry, leading and setting the standards for others to follow,” he said.
He also said while The Irish Times was the preferred purchaser of the company’s assets, it was not the group’s “only suitor”.
“The reason we selected them originally was because the positioning of the core Irish Times newspaper was consistent with and complementary to the positioning of the Irish Examiner and, secondly because our experiences of dealing with them over the years showed them to be good people to partner with.
“We believe this deal will be very good for our brands and our people and that it will also be good for The Irish Times and for the industry as a whole.”
Mr Murphy said later the deal had been contingent on the support of AIB and that, although the transaction had taken longer than anticipated, the help of the bank had been crucial in reaching a satisfactory conclusion.
In a statement, The Irish Times said the transaction brings together two organisations with a quality focus and strong ethos, and is a “positive step” in the protection of two Irish-owned media organisations.
“Our objective is to create a dynamic and vibrant business which can sustain itself for the‘ longer term and where the respective media assets — national, regional and radio — will contribute significantly to the Irish media market.”
“The combined scale provides opportunities for consolidation, to secure existing revenues and will provide a platform to build and grow new digital readers and revenues,” it said.
It also said it intends to retain the “core identity and independence” of the news publishing titles.
“Each will retain their editorial integrity. The overall increase in audience allows the group to build a digital platform with a strong reach, countrywide and internationally. The consolidation also presents the opportunity to strengthen and grow existing print advertising revenues and helps to secure contract print revenues,” it said.
The Irish Times also said it is fully committed to working with trade union groups on restructuring in the combined group and will look to meet staff representatives as soon as possible.
Tom Crosbie told staff that the various newspapers involved in the deal speak for their regions and communities.
“That is important and that will continue. That’s why the transaction is important,” he said.
His father, Ted, who is in his 80s and still involved in the business, thanked the staff for their dedication and said dust rising during the heatwave has caused irritation to his eyes.
“It gets into my eyes, and my eyes fill with tears, but I can guarantee that only 10% of those tears are for family anxiety — the other 90% are tears of joy that you fellas are carrying on with the publications,” he said.
Liam Kavanagh, the managing director of The Irish Times, is due in Cork today to address staff of the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo. NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley welcomed the commitment of the new owners to honour existing agreements and to work in a collaborative way with the trade unions.
“We are encouraged by the fact that management has engaged immediately with the trade union representatives and we hope that this sets a headline for the future.
“It is encouraging that the Irish Times is strongly committed to the maintenance of the editorial independence of the titles.
“The Examiner, in particular, occupies a proud place in the history of the Irish media and will continue to do so under the new owners.”
“The success of the newspapers and radio stations involved in this acquisition is in no small measure due to the contribution of the staff and we will be engaging with the new owners to discuss future development plans. I am pleased to confirm that we have secured a commitment that all agreements will be honoured”.