Johnston Press buyout debated in the Commons

19 November 2018

Tom Watson, Shadow Culture Secretary, used an urgent question to ask the Government to make a statement on the impact of Johnston Press going into administration.

Johnston Press owns papers including I, The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and more than 200 local and regional papers, and announced on November 16 that it was going into administration. 

It has since been rescued by what is know as a "pre-pack" sale, whereby the ownership of the company has been transferred to a newly formed company, JPI Media, owned by its bondholders, including US hedgefund Goldentree Asset Management.

The deal sees the Johnston Press shares wiped out, and while the cash injection sees retention of the Board, and short term security for Johnston Press titles and the associated jobs, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have expressed concerns that pensions and longer term stability are at risk.

The NUJ called for "meaningful guarantees" that the new ownership was committed to journalism and publishing and not simply looking to strip assets from the publisher. This concern was echoed by Custos Group, the biggest holder of Johnston Press shares, whose CEO, Christen Ager-Hanssen, said;

“Today’s pre-pack was not so much a corporate rescue as a blatant pre-planned corporate theft by bondholders, suitably aided and abetted by Johnston Press’ incompetent and double-tongued board".

DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright told the House that he "will not at this stage set out any views on the impact of this transaction" as a result of the provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002.

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