Editors in last-ditch bid to revive Business a.m.

Penman and Neville: given time to come up with a new business plan

John Penman, former editor-in-chief of Business a.m., and executives who tried to save the paper with a management buyout met this week to see if it could be revived.

The paper closed on 20 December after losses became too much to sustain for the owner, Swedish group Bonnier.

The most likely possibility for a revival would be as a weekly if there is the will to begin a new venture.

Bonnier, which launched the Scottish political and business daily two years ago, is giving the management group, which also includes editor Richard Neville, leeway to see if it can come up with a business plan. It is allowing them to use the offices in Edinburgh for the next couple of weeks for discussions among themselves and with the company.

After a break over Christmas and the New Year, the group was back in the office in Torpichan Street on Tuesday. Penman said there had been some expressions of interest from publishers since the paper’s demise and he first had to establish whether there was an appetite for trying to save Business a.m. in some form and whether they could raise the money to do so. The buyout plans fell short of the £2m investment needed. "We suspect that the only option would be to revive it as a weekly, but we think that may take a bit of time to do," said Penman. "But Bonnier has shown a willingness to talk to us and if we can get a clear run in the next two or three weeks, it may be possible.

"We don’t want to raise people’s hopes. One of the lessons of Business a.m. was if you go it alone and you don’t use an infrastructure of existing titles, it is much harder ."

A rescue attempt by Financial News owner Angus MacDonald failed at the first hurdle when he learned that employment laws would have made him responsible for continuing to pay the 120 staff, even though they had already received redundancy pay-offs.

MacDonald had been planning to take on part of the staff for a weekly version of Business a.m.

"Basically, the EU regulations cost 40 people employment," he said.

"I was absolutely distraught after we had all worked so hard."

By Jean Morgan

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