ACM regional newspapers bought for $125m

Australian Community Media and Printing and its 160 regional newspapers including The Canberra Times, The Newcastle Herald and The Border Mail have been bought for $125m by a former Fairfax executive from Nine Entertainment.

Antony Catalano, who was previously the chief executive officer of the Domain real estate division at Fairfax Media, and investment firm Thorney Investment Group, were announced yesterday as the new owners of the regional newspaper group.

The deal is expected to be completed by June 2019 with Nine saying the deal comprised $110m in cash proceeds with $10m of advertising on ACM publications over three years.

What this means for the printing of the newspapers was not immediately clear but Catalano has guaranteed a widespread review in an attempt to grow rather than shrink the business.

“I think it’s not dissimilar to other businesses that I’ve run. We took a business that was in loss making territory at Fairfax and turned it into a highly profitable business and then into the Domain float so I think we’ve got a history of demonstrating that we can turnaround old media and introduce some new media elements to it,” Catalano told ABC Radio.

“For me these businesses now require investment.

“They don’t need to exist necessarily just in their current form. The issue for us is to review how those subscription models have been put in place.

“I think what I can guarantee is there will be a widespread review of all the businesses and I can guarantee and can guarantee all the staff in the organisation that we will be doing our best to grow the business not shrink it.”

What this means for the printing of the regional newspapers was not immediately clear. Fairfax Media and News Corp last year negotiated a deal to share print facilities to help maintain the ongoing sustainability of the print side of the business.

Under the arrangement Fairfax Media’s former print site in Beresfield NSW and Ormiston in Queensland were closed, resulting in the printing of ACM titles moving to Fairfax print sites in Tamworth and North Richmond in NSW.

Fairfax print work produced at Ormiston was transferred to News plants in Murarrie, Yandina, Warwick and Townsville in Queensland, with some moved to Tamworth.

Nine released a statement saying the cash proceeds of the sale were expected to be around $115m of which $10m will be paid 12 months post completion. “At this stage, it is intended that these funds will be used to reduce Group indebtedness.  In addition, Nine will obtain up to $10 million of advertising on ACM properties over the three years from completion,” the statement said.  

Hugh Marks, Chief Executive Officer of Nine, said: “The sale of ACM is aligned with our strategy to exit non-core businesses and to focus on Nine’s portfolio of high-growth, digital assets.  We will retain a commercial relationship with ACM and look forward to continuing to work with the business in areas where there are mutual benefits to both Nine and ACM.”


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