David Montgomery, the founder of Local World and a former News of the World editor, has confirmed he is in talks to buy JPI Media’s regional titles with his new publishing company.
Montgomery has previously outlined plans to “transform” the local news sector with the newly formed National World by foregoing “archaic industrial practices” and buying up struggling titles.
JPI Media was formed by creditors when Johnston Press went into administration last year after failing to refinance £220m debts.
Last week it began getting rid of its assets by selling the i newspaper to Mail and Metro publisher the Daily Mail and General Trust for £49.6m.
JPI Media owns more than 150 regional titles, including dailies the Yorkshire Post, Scotsman, and Portsmouth’s The News.
A statement from National World said: “The company confirms it is contemplating several acquisitions and has approached JPI following speculation that the sales process for the regional titles had not completed.
“There is no certainty that any transaction will proceed. A further announcement will be made as appropriate in due course.”
National World was admitted to the London Stock Exchange in September with Montgomery (pictured) as executive chairman, but it has not yet acquired any titles.
Reach, the UK’s largest publisher, confirmed last week it was “no longer in active discussions” to buy any of JPI’s regional titles.
The Financial Times has since reported that rival regional publisher Newsquest, also previously seen as a frontrunner in the JPI talks, dropped out of the race after a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) buyout of its US parent company Gannett was completed last month.
National World yesterday repeated its aim to “create a modern platform for news publishing by implementing a new operating model using the latest technology”.
It said in a statement this would involve “combining digital technology innovation and traditional print assets to grow revenues by aggregation of audiences and reduce costs via shared services”.
Journalists at JPI Media’s Scottish titles, which include the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, have expressed anxiety over the potential takeover.
The National Union of Journalists said staff feared following in the footsteps of Newsquest’s Scottish titles, including flagship dailies The Herald and The National, where staff are balloting for industrial action over fears of compulsory redundancies.
NUJ national organiser John Toner said: “Just because these cuts have been announced at one publishers’ titles, does not mean that it does not affect other parts of the Scottish media.
“There are many rumours regarding the upcoming purchase of the JPI Media titles and staff there are equally concerned that any future owner may wish to implement similar cuts after the acquisition.
“We remind any potential owner that it remains the position of the joint chapel in Edinburgh that any threat of compulsory redundancies will trigger a ballot for industrial action.”
Picture: Reuters/Morten Holm/ Scanpix