Fears for Highbury House

Fears were
growing for Front publisher Highbury House this week after shares in
the company were suspended amid the collapse of debt management talks,
followed by the resignation of the last of its long-standing board
members.

The business, which was taken over by former Sun editor
Kelvin MacKenzie in August, called a temporary halt to trading in its
shares on Monday after talks with its creditors fell apart, and
announced the departure of board member David Sebire the following day.

MacKenzie
bought a fifth of Highbury’s shares in August and installed himself as
chairman and chief executive, prompting a reshuffle at board level.
Hopes for the company resurfaced last month when he hired former NME
and Uncut publisher Rich Coles to revive Front and sister title Hotdog.

In
a statement to the stock exchange on Monday, the company said:
“Highbury House announces that discussions with its lenders concerning
a refinancing of its indebtedness and a related issue of equity have
now been terminated. As a consequence, the group has requested that
dealings in its shares be temporarily suspended pending clarification
of its financial position.

“Discussions continue between the
group and its lenders, which continue to be supportive of the group,
and the future viability of the group is dependent on the successful
conclusion of these discussions.”

MacKenzie is reported to have
spent £1.3m on buying shares in Highbury, which is fighting to deal
with £27m in debts, selling the vast majority of its titles to rival
Future for just over £30m.

Shares, which have fallen from 3.4p
since MacKenzie’s arrival in August, were suspended at 0.7p, valuing
his stake at just over £440,000 Discussion on financial messageboards
suggested investors feared the worst, and suspected MacKenzie had tried
and failed to force a deal from lenders by suspending the shares. The
company declined to comment.

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