By Ruth Addicott
Highbury House has made a £32m offer to buy specialist magazine publisher Paragon Publishing.
The acquisition affects 185 staff at Paragon and would turn Highbury into the third largest UK publicly quoted consumer magazine publisher. It follows its £10m acquisition of Cabal Communications in March.
Journalists at Paragon will remain in their offices in Bournemouth, where there are expected to be no redundancies.
Paragon’s managing director Mark Simpson, who is reported to have picked up £3m from the deal, will join the board of Highbury.
The announcement came as a surprise to many staff at Paragon, who were called into a meeting by Simpson on Tuesday. He quashed initial fears of redundancies and sources say most staff were left feeling optimistic about the possibility of fresh investment. “Highbury is obviously a vastly larger company than Paragon, giving us the advantage to take on Future head on,” said one.
There were still some concerns, however, about overlap in the home entertainment and DVD sector. Paragon’s Essential Home Cinema and Highbury’s What Home Cinema both operate in the same market, as do Paragon’s DVD Review and DVD Buyer and Highbury’s Total DVD.
DVD Review showed an improvement in the last ABCs, up 15.1 per cent period-on-period, but Paragon’s PC Home fell 26.7 per cent year-on-year to 14,224 and Internet Made Easy fell 26.3 per cent to 12,801.
Ian Fletcher, executive chairman of Highbury House, said it was possible for a company to have titles competing against each other in the same market. He added that the deal also opened up a new sector for Highbury, given Paragon’s stake in the computer games market.
“It is a bloody good business and very well run, with an excellent management team who have doubled its size and, in the last two years alone, doubled the profits,” he told Press Gazette.
Asked about the potential sale of the B2B division, Fletcher said: “Our position is that we are prepared to sell it if the price is right. Staff are totally aware that we may or may not sell the business. We are pursuing a policy of repositioning our business as a consumer publisher.”