Future pledges to safeguard jobs in new Highbury deal

By Alyson Fixter

Staff at 38 Highbury House titles have been reassured that their
jobs are safe under a resurrected deal between the struggling publisher
and rival Future.

Future’s original agreement to buy the entire company for £100m
collapsed last month after the Office of Fair Trading raised fears that
the deal would give Future too big a share of the games magazine market.

Bath-based
Future will now pay £30m for 38 titles, including Fast Car, DJ,
Pregnancy and the What range, but will leave the games magazines with
Highbury.

Greg Ingham, CEO of Future, said: “These are classic
special-interest magazines, which will be great additions to the Future
portfolio.

“We look forward to welcoming warmly the people who work on these titles to Future.

“This deal has several of the attractions of the larger one with Highbury from which we withdrew earlier this month.

“We
have built up considerable knowledge of Highbury’s portfolio over the
past few months and thus have been able to move swiftly.”

Ingham
promised last month that Future had no intention of buying magazines to
close them. A spokeswoman for the company reiterated the pledge this
week.

She said: “The company cherry- This year’s Local Newspaper
Week is carrying a Closer to Home theme focusing on how local papers
can directly influence their community.

Organised by the
Newspaper Society, the week is encouraging papers to involve their
readers in the reality of daily life on a newspaper. It suggests papers
could publish histories of their titles and link up with the local
Talking Newspaper Federation.

Model and ChildLine ambassador
Caprice has sent an article to all local and regional newspaper editors
across the country thanking them for their support. She said: “Local
newspapers and their readers have been loyal supporters of ChildLine
since it was launched 18 years ago, helping it increase awareness of
issues such as bullying and abuse, and raising vital funds.”

Local Newspaper Week runs from 16 to 22 May.

picked the 38 titles it wants in Highbury’s portfolio and it would be perverse psychology to then close or slim them down.”

However,
employees remaining at Highbury continue to face uncertainty about
their jobs after the company announced plans to scale back most of its
operations and focus on its gaming, photography and computing titles,
based in Bournemouth. The other sections of its business will go back
on the market.

A spokesman for Highbury said: “Following the
lapsing of the [original] offer, the board has had to consider again
its strategic options.

“In considering these options, the board
has been particularly mindful of the significant degree of uncertainty
among staff, Highbury’s most important asset, which the offer and its
subsequent lapsing have caused, as well as the requirement of its banks
to reduce group indebtedness as quickly as possible.

“This,
combined with the operational drift which had unavoidably resulted
during the offer, has made it necessary for the board to take swift
action to ensure as much value as possible is preserved for Highbury’s
stakeholders.”

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