Mail and Metro publisher the Daily Mail and General Trust has bought the i paper from JPI Media for £49.6m.
The company said it wanted to buy the i because it is a “strong print title” with an “established reputation for quality journalism” and pledged to preserve the title’s editorial independence.
The i’s editor, Oly Duff, welcomed the paper’s new owners on Twitter and said he was “cheered by their admiration” for the title.
“Very grateful to former owners JPI Media (as well as Johnston Press and before 2016 ESI Media) for their courage, imagination and support, transforming a start-up into a highly trusted UK media publisher that also turns a profit and has a healthy sustainable future,” he said.
DMGT chief executive Paul Zwillenberg made assurances that the i and the Mail will be kept editorially separate, despite plans for cost “synergies” between the titles.
He said: “The i has a different editorial style and tone to the Mail and the audience has a different demographic. I want to make absolutely clear that we will ensure that the editorial independence of the i is preserved.
“Its readers value its distinctive style and politically neutral approach and we are committed to maintaining that.”
DMGT chairman Lord Rothermere added that the company is “committed to preserving” the i’s “distinctive, high quality and politically independent editorial style”.
Zwillenberg added that he expected to make initial savings by merging the papers’ back office operations, with printing, production and distribution synergies to come in future.
“In addition, there may be some revenue synergies over time,” he went on.
“For example, there would be opportunities to sell advertising that reaches a larger audience, in the same way that we have benefited from combining the Metro’s and Mail’s sales operations.”
According to DMGT, the i made £34m revenue and £11m in cash operating income and operating profit in 2018.
It said that three-quarters of the i’s revenues came from its cover price, with the remaining quarter from advertising.
The newspaper had a circulation of 221,083 in October, according to ABC figures, an eight per cent fall year-on-year. The i website has an average of 300,000 daily unique browsers, according to DMGT.
DMGT said in its statement that it expects the acquisition to be examined by watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority over the acquisition.
While this takes place, the newspapers would operate under a “hold separate” order with the i run separately to the rest of DMGT under Duff and managing director Richard Thomson.
The CMA has four months from the merger being made public or its completion, whichever comes later, to decide whether or not to launch an in-depth assessment of the deal.
The National Union of Journalists’ members’ chapel at the i said: “The i NUJ chapel welcomes any investment which secures the future of high-quality journalism at the title.
“We welcome assurances that jobs, quality and editorial independence will be safeguarded and look forward to those undertakings being honoured.”
Lord Rothermere said the i was a “highly respected publication with a loyal and engaged readership”.
“The acquisition of the i is both strategically and financially compelling for DMGT and there is scope for potential synergies in the future, notably from DMG Media’s existing infrastructure and in advertising sales,” he said.
“The business will benefit from DMGT’s long-term approach and commitment to investing in editorial content. We also see good opportunities to develop inews.co.uk, a growing digital media asset.
“Financially, the i will be a strong cash generator for the group as we continue to invest across the portfolio, both organically and through acquisitions.”
An overall digital revenue growth of 13 per cent offset a two per cent decline in print and circulation revenues.
The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are among the biggest-selling UK national newspapers in their respective markets.
DMGT has the third biggest UK website traffic of any news group in the country, although the Mail Online claims UK traffic is less than half of its global total.