IN&M to acquire 'Sligo Champion' newspaper


Independent News & Media has agreed to acquire the Sligo Championnewspaper subject to the completion of due diligence and regulatory approval.

It is understood that IN&M, which is led by Sir Anthony O'Reilly, has agreed to pay about €25 million for the paper, although no price has been disclosed by either side.

This sale price is ahead of market expectations and makes it one of the biggest multiples paid for a regional newspaper here. A spokesman for IN&M said the acquisition would be "earnings enhancing [for IN&M] from year one".

The deal provides a large payday for the Townsend brothers, Niall and Michael. Niall owns 55 per cent of the Sligo business and will earn €13.75 million from the transaction. His brother Michael owns the balance and will get €11.25 million.

Niall (55) is expected to retire from the company but Michael (47) will remain with the business.

Founded in 1836, the Sligo Championhad a weekly circulation of 12,574 in the January to June period, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The newspaper group had turnover of about €3.8 million and profits of around €2 million last year. It employs 34 staff.

It is understood that there was no debt in the business and no property is involved in the sale. The company's printing arm, which employs just two staff, will close.

The Townsends were advised by Raglan Capital, which was recently set up by corporate finance executives Cathal Friel and Mark O'Donovan, and by law firm Mason, Hayes & Curran.

IN&M was one of four final bids received for the Sligo title. Johnston Press is also believed to have been shortlisted and two other Irish media players.

It is understood that neither Celtic Media Group, which is run by Irish-born Deirdre Romanes and owns the Meath Chronicleand Anglo Celt, nor The Irish Times, lodged bids for the paper.

The deal strengthens IN&M's position in regional press here. The company already owns 12 paid-for titles, which have a combined weekly circulation of 112,000. Its regional titles include the Kerryman, the Corkman, the Drogheda Independentand Peoplegroup of titles in the southeast.

IN&M also owns the Irish Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Worldand the Sunday Independentand has a 50 per cent share in Starnewspapers.

The Sligo Championcompetes directly with the Sligo Weekender, which is owned by Thomas Crosbie Holdings, and the Sligo Post, which is owned by River Media.

Shares in IN&M closed at €2.23 last night, down three cent.