Peoplenews saved by Observer article

 

A chance flick through The Observer in an airport lounge was the saving of Jane Procter’s celebrity gossip website peoplenews.com.

Margaret Manning, a partner in the internet developers company Reading Room, was passing through Heathrow on her way back from Sydney when she spotted an article by Jamie Doward in the newspaper about the imminent demise of peoplenews.

"I was fascinated by what I read about why it was in this position and in particular about the technology problems they have been having. We were in an ideal position to be able to solve them," she said.

Six days later, after liquidators PricewaterhouseCoopers had been called in, Reading Room acquired peoplenews for an undisclosed six-figure sum and moved the whole operation to new premises in Soho.

Manning believes Reading Room can solve some technology problems "within days", saving thousands of pounds per month.

A relieved Procter said: "We were looking for a knight in shining armour and thankfully he arrived just in time. It was a very weird time in that I always felt the glass was half full. I couldn’t believe that something that I thought had as much potential as peoplenews wasn’t going to be OK."

But she admitted being disappointed at "all the negative publicity" the company had received.

"Everybody thinks that we are dead.  So many of the nationals ran stories to that effect but when our PR company rang them to say we were saved, nobody would do it. Even the FT ran a big piece with pictures saying we were dying and I feel, as a matter of record, they should run one to say we are not."

By Philippa Kennedy

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