Bullivant: Trinity could have saved Midlands weeklies

Trinity Mirror could have helped save a number of the nine Midlands weekly papers it had earmarked for closure, an Independent newspaper owner has claimed.

Chris Bullivant, owner of Bullivant Media, told Press Gazette that Trinity issued notification of closures last week despite having entered negotiations with him to sell a number of the papers and save jobs.

Bullivant said: “I think they had no intention of selling to me or anyone else.”

Trinity’s confirmation earlier this month that it intended to close nine weekly newspapers across the Midlands region and make almost 120 staff redundant prompted an offer from Bullivant to buy a number of the titles.

At the time Trinity said it was looking to close the weeklies to help “protect our Midlands businesses and the majority of their employees” as it battled to secure its long-term future.

Despite this Bullivant said he’d entered negotiations for at least four papers – the Lichfield Post, Tamworth Times, Burton Trader and the Walsall Observer – and was even asked to sign a confidentiality agreement while discussions took place.

However, he told Press Gazette, despite their talks the publisher issued notifications of closure last week, rendering the titles worthless.

Bullivant said: “I think it’s barmy. At least one and maybe all of these newspapers could have been saved in my organisation as I don’t have the overheads that Trinity Mirror does.

“I would have loved any of them [Trinity’s weeklies] but in the middle of negotiations they decided to close the things.”

However, sources told Press Gazette that Bullivant’s failure to sign a confidentiality agreement meant that meaningful discussions over the sale of the titles could not take place with him.

Press Gazette has yet to receive a response after attempts to contact Bullivant again today in order to clarify this point.

Trinity Mirror reacted stormily saying Bullivant should be “ashamed” of his claims.

A spokesman said: “The fact that he [Bullivant] now wishes to have discussions in public demonstrates precisely why we would be cautious in dealing with a man whose own companies recently went into administration.”

Bullivant was chairman of Observer Standard Newspapers when it went into administration earlier this year before being sold on to Bullivant Media, the company he later set up.

Bullivant Media publishes more than 20 magazines and papers across the Midlands, including the Leamington and Coventry Observer and the Bromsgrove Standard.

Had the weeklies been sold to his company, Bullivant said, a number of journalists and printers earmarked for redundancy could have been saved.

He added: “What we were saying was that Trinity Mirror could have continued to print the titles, so potentially all of the jobs could have been saved.”

His comments echo those of David Fordham, chief executive of independent publisher Iliffe, who told Press Gazette last year a number of the eight weeklies Trinity closed in Derby and Peterborough, in April 2008, could have been saved had his company been given the opportunity to discuss acquiring them.

Despite the closure notices, Bullivant said he still maintained an interest in buying the Walsall Observer masthead from Trinity Mirror.

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