Coronavirus crisis forces Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News into liquidation

UPDATE 14 APRIL 2020: The owner of the Jewish Chronicle, the Kessler Foundation, has submitted a bid to the newspapers’ liquidators to buy their assets and merge them into one title.

If the bid goes ahead, the merged title will be led by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer while Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard will step down to become editor-at-large and focus on writing.

Original story 8 April 2020: 

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The Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News are being put into liquidation after their owners said they will not survive the impact of the coronavirus.

The weekly newspapers announced plans in February to unite under one charitable trust and merge their operations to “secure the financial future of both newspapers” and form a modern print, digital and events brand.

But a statement posted on both titles’ websites today revealed their boards – which remain separate – have decided the only way forward is to seek a voluntary liquidation.

It said that despite the “heroic efforts” of the editorial and production teams, it had “become clear that the business will not be able to survive the impact of the current coronavirus epidemic in its current form”.

Newspapers are facing challenging market conditions with advertising collapsing as events are cancelled and sales falling as people stay indoors following Government advice to slow the spread of the virus.

The liquidation of both titles will be finalised within two to three weeks and “every effort will be made to ensure” they can continue publishing in print and online in the meantime, the statements added.

Press Gazette understands that merger talks between the two titles were still ongoing prior to today’s announcement, meaning no deal had been finalised.

‘Devastating news’

Jewish Chronicle owner the Kessler Foundation was said to be “actively working” to secure a future for the newspapers following the liquidation. The News is owned by the Noe family.

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tweeted that it was “devastating news” and that “the paper will be out as usual next week, and we have every intention of avoiding any interruption”.

The Chronicle’s head of news Jack Sommers described it as a “sad day” for the paper on Twitter, adding: “I am incredibly proud of its journalists, who have worked to make the paper a must-read in extraordinary times.

“In the meantime, we’re still working hard to cover the news in even more extraordinary times.”

The titles claimed in February they have a combined weekly print run of more than 40,000 copies and weekly online page views of more than 500,000, covering “well over half” of the UK’s Jewish community.

Under the merger it was planned that their journalists and commercial staff would start working across both titles.

The News distributes 21,065 copies a week, according to ABC figures. The Chronicle had a mixed paid-for and free circulation of 20,015 in 2017 before it withdrew from circulation auditing.

The Chronicle was given a cash injection of seven figures last summer to turn around its fortunes after facing a “grave” threat of closure due to a series of financial losses.

The News had net liabilities of £1.5m at the end of 2018, according to its latest Companies House filing.

The Jewish Telegraph newspaper also publishes in the UK.

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