Isle of Wight County Press: Mainland company trying to buy it outright

The previously-independently-owned Isle of Wight County Press has had an offer from a national media group that owns 150+ local newspapers to buy it. The CP’s CEO says, “The directors are unanimous in recommending to shareholders that they accept the offer.” Here’s what we know.

cp masthead

The Board of the Isle of Wight County Press newspaper is recommending to its shareholders that they accept a bid from Newsquest, one of the UK’s largest owner of local news titles, to buyout the Isle of Wight County Press Group.

This Group in turn owns the shares of the Isle of Wight County Press, as well as Crossprint and Matrix Create (It previously owned the Weekly Ads paper too, but closed it down).

The Chief Executive of the IW County Press Group, Robin Freeman, is on record as saying, “The directors are unanimous in recommending to shareholders that they accept the offer”.

County Press shares
Documentation at Companies House lists 89 shareholders of Isle of Wight County Press Group Ltd, who between them own over half a million shares (527,206). The largest single holder of shares list is Amanda Bradbeer, who owns 165,760 shares.

In the latest version of the accounts available, the group turned over £4.86m in 2016, down from £5.2m in 2015. Staff costs, including directors’ remuneration, was just over £3m in 2016.

Online news – a nation-wide impact
Online news publishing has impacted the previous dominance of local newspapers country-wide. Back in the heyday of its circulation, 2005, the CP hit 41k weekly copies sold. The paper’s weekly sales have now dropped to 25k in the latest official figures available.

In the Group’s Chairman’s Statement in October 2016 in a section titled ‘Outlook’, F R Hetherington, said

“It has been mentioned here before that there are significant challenges for all our subsidiaries as a result of the way individuals and businesses choose to access and consume the news and information they require. The group will continue to think very carefully about its options for adapting to these fundamental and continuing trends.”

In a joint statement with Newsquest, Robin Freeman, current Chief Executive of the IW County Press Group said,

“The Board of the IWCP Group strongly believe that this is the best way forward for our group of companies. It provides access to the skills, knowledge and expertise that we need in order for us to be able to adapt and change the existing businesses to meet the opportunities and challenges of the new media landscape that we face.”

Who is Newsquest?
Newsquest is one of the largest owner of local newspapers across the UK, currently owning over 150 local news publications, including Southampton’s Southern Daily Echo. They also own Exchange and Mart.

Newsquest themselves are owned by the America company, Gannett Inc, the largest news publisher in the US.

In 2015 Newsquest bought another previously-independently owned local newspaper group, Romanes Media Group, for an undisclosed amount of money.

In today’s joint statement with the CP, Newquest said

“Newsquest are strongly committed to maintaining the editorial independence and integrity of the IW County Press newspaper and special arrangements will be put in place to safeguard this if the offer is accepted by shareholders. Support for the local community is something that is also important to both companies and this will be maintained.”

No details of how much Newsquest would pay for the IWCP Groups shares were released. The shareholders decision is expected in approximately four weeks.

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Monday, 19th June, 2017 5:03pm

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ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2fof

Filed under: Business, Island-wide, Isle of Wight County Press, Isle of Wight News, Media, Print, Top story

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

15 Comments

  1. Newsquest took over the Brighton Evening Argus, now just the Argus, and it is no longer the good newspaper it used to be. They scrapped the job vacancies pages in favour of an almost useless
    agency page. So, County Press shareholders beware.

  2. Not a good idea. Yet another British firm being taken over and parasitised by an American megacompany? No thank you.
    Is there any way that a community bid could be got together? I haven’t always been a huge fan of the County Press, but a takeover by a big national firm that’s ultimately owned by an American business would make the County Press worse, not better.

  3. the auditor


    20.Jun.2017 8:28am

    All local newspapers are struggling with falling circulation figures. Cover prices and advertising rates are increased to balance the books and advertisers look to other media for exposure. I don’t blame the shareholders for selling up. Maybe if this deal goes through, there might be less bias in the reporting and we might see a willingness to publish some investigative journalism, rather than being the mouthpiece for the IWCC.

    • Rupert Besley


      21.Jun.2017 11:33am

      Hmmph. I defy you to find in the 1500-plus cartoons that I’ve had in the CP a single instance that could be taken as mouthpiece for the Council. Instead, over 30 years, the CP has allowed me to keep up a regular supply of observations critical of the Council. And I don’t remember Charlotte Hofton’s Council Meeting Reports as exactly IWC mouthpiece stuff.

      Ah, you will reply, you were talking just of reporting. But as much of newspapers these days is about opinion and interpretation as of reporting (in the face of competition from fake news, online and broadcast media). And most national papers have swerved in the direction of ever more blatant bias or political partisanship (Mail, Mirror, Telegraph, Sun, yes, Guardian too).

      By comparison, the CP does quite well in the difficult task it sets itself of trying to be neutral, non-party and a mouthpiece for all. Whatever they put – or omit – will always leave plenty of people aggrieved on the handling of any issue. Truth is a many-sided thing and bias something easier to see in others than in ourselves.

      The dream of great investigative journalism will always be hard to realise in a set-up where the publication depends for income on the kind of institutions and businesses (such as IWC, ferry companies, tourism…) most likely to be the subject of investigation. Serious investigation needs serious funding (to cover long-term research and the potential for legal costs).

  4. greenfield


    20.Jun.2017 2:26pm

    As mentioned Newsqest own many local newspaper brands including the Southampton Echo. It is, of course, completely logical for the shareholders to sell. This is their one chance to cystalise their investments. Newsquest will change the CP, consolidate the services which can be sourced from the group and add their own ‘universal’ online offering. It won’t be the same and there will be a lot of negativty amongst the traditional printed copy buyers. However, this presents big opportunities for redundant staff(there will be lots) and other groups to fill the void with new focused offline and online publicatons tuned to the exact needs of the IOW population including this one.
    Anyone interested in talking to me about a new ‘news’ future for the IOW please get in touch.

  5. Why the big fuss? If it secures the future of the local paper so much the better.

    • Sorry, Tim, this buy-out by an American Company will most certainly not secure the future of our much loved C.P. and its staff. We all know what has happened to Cadburys, just for one example.
      Our main source of information each Saturday and, more recently, Friday is second to none. We are fortunate to have alternative news sources (OTW etc) which are good but they only cover a fraction of that routinely by our CP.

      Over the years the CP has been accused of political bias (towards the “right”, and more recently towards the “Green”) but most readers are able to pick their way through any such supposed favouritism.

      Truly, I hope our misgivings are unfounded. Who will ever be able to provide the lists of Births, Deaths and Marriages as the CP necessarily does each week? Who can cover Sports Reports other than the CP?
      Change looks likely but I sincerely hope the CP retains its identity and that the editorial and reporting crews remain.

      We Live in hope.

      • Rupert Besley


        21.Jun.2017 10:38am

        In answer to ‘Why the big fuss?’, there are good reasons for the whole Island to be concerned about this development. There is plenty at stake.

        Whatever your opinion of the County Press, it cannot be denied that both paper and company play an enormous part in support of the local community and of good things that happen within it. Much of that is through routine coverage of planned events and worthwhile activity: sports teams, school productions, church fetes, horticultural shows, youth activities, charity happenings, festivals, carnivals, WI, TG, artists’ exhibitions, books, choirs, village news, you name it… all depend heavily on the publicity and reportage of the CP.

        But the CP goes further than that. As regular, significant and active sponsor, it helps instigate, enable and support a host of good things happening on the Island (Garden Shows, Motor Shows, Blooming Villages, Drama Awards, Tennis Tournaments, Sports Awards, recognition for local heroes and their work in the community… the list goes on). And, beyond that, the CP has done the community proud in its campaigns over the years (eg Hospital MRI Scanner Appeal).

        As an independent local company, the CP has stayed true to its roots and done the Island community much good along the way. In their joint statement, Newsquest say, ‘Support for the local community is something that is also important to both companies and this will be maintained.’ Without doubting their intention, I would wish to check out against current performance elsewhere to what extent any larger group can really commit to the same level of community involvement and support as achieved by the CP.

        I am under no illusions as to the challenges to survival faced by all print media and especially local papers. Tough times, tough choices – hence the ‘fuss’.

        • Surely a takeover that will ensure its survival is far better than decline and eventual closure.

          If the management were optimistic about the future of the paper under its current ownership it would hardly be recommending that the shareholders sell.

          Unfortunately the island is being held back by those who wish to live in the past forever and resist all change.

  6. It will be a sad day when we lose the independent voice of the IWCP. Many times I have vehemently disagreed with their content, bias and comment but the thing I value so much about this newspaper is that they are one of the last independent local newspapers. It will be a dreadful day when they get subsumed. However, nothing is static and all organisations have to grow with the times. Bye Bye

  7. “Newsquest are strongly committed to maintaining the editorial independence and integrity of the IW County Press newspaper and special arrangements will be put in place to safeguard this.”
    I don’t suppose these ‘special arrangements’ will be made public but when you research Newsquest’s record after they take over newspapers and subsume them it does not look good.

    It looks as if the IWCP board, which owns a majority of shares, has decided to take the money and run leaving many staff looking down a barrel of a gun.

  8. Rupert Besley


    26.Jun.2017 9:09am

    Ah, correction, that (in my comment above) has turned into a proper link… thank you.

  9. Rupert – interesting article and I feel very accurate – this shows OTW for the excellent work that they do on the island. In my area on the mainland, Newsquest have already taken over the only real local paper that we have left, and to be honest, it is dire. No real local news, no letters – nothing really, the website is even worse – full of pop ups about TOWIE and other non celebs! I know the IWCP is not perfect, but honestly, compared to what we have locally it is worth preserving.

    • Sally Perry


      27.Jun.2017 2:14pm

      Thanks for the tip o’ the hat Richard.

      This thread clearly demonstrates a desire for a strong independent media on the Isle of Wight.

      OnTheWight are proud to have been providing that for nearly 12 years.

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