MD Auckland cannot rule out sale of Northcliffe Media

Northcliffe Media managing director Steve Auckland has told staff he cannot rule out the business being sold by parent company Daily Mail General Trust.

His comments once again could fuel speculation over the future of the company, which recently returned to profit growth for the first time since the recession struck.

In November, the company reportedly appointed Ernst & Young to value Northcliffe ahead of a potential sale after its value fell from £1.5bn to around £150m in the space of five years.

Press Gazette understands that Auckland told staff: ‘I cannot say that we will or will not be sold in the near future. We are working in an uncertain market and our job is to maximise every opportunity.

‘We need to ensure teams are focused on delivering results that are better than we ever thought imaginable.”

He added: ‘If we are sold, it will mainly affect the head office team. If you are a good operator in your centre, you are unlikely to be affected.”

In February 2011 DMGT chief executive Martin Morgan told reporters the group had no plans to inject fresh capital into Northcliffe and that it was open to any ‘worthwhile approaches”.

Auckland was brought in from DMGT’s free morning newspaper Metro, which he made profitable, last March and undertook a review of the business, which includes the Hull Daily Mail and South Wales Evening Post.

Since then four of its former dailies have become weeklies and in May, it reported operating profit was up 34 per cent to £11m.

In the same month, it announced a tie-up with rival Trinity Mirror to promote a sales package for 13 of their city dailies.

But Auckland told staff that while he ‘wouldn’t rule out further consolidation in the industry’no merger discussions were taking place with Trinity.

This article first appeared in Press Gazette – Journalism Weekly. Click here to sign up for your free copy

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