Gavin O’Reilly to chair New European following acquisition
Balderton Capital’s Barry Maloney and former FT editor Lionel Barber also involved
The New European was founded in 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
Gavin O’Reilly, the former Independent News & Media (INM) chief executive who is part of an investment consortium buying anti-Brexit weekly The New European, says newspapers should focus on sustaining themselves commercially, as he warned against proposals for State funding for the sector.
Mr O’Reilly said “the first tenet of newspapers is to hold those in power to account” and he advised the industry not to get hooked on bailouts from government. Political parties, including Fianna Fáil, have previously floated the idea of ring-fencing taxpayer cash to ensure the stability of the sector.
“That is not a welcome development. I can understand that it is expensive to produce newspapers. But I think State support is a dangerous road,” he said.
Mr O’Reilly is taking over as executive chairman of four-year-old print publication the New European, which is being bought by management from Archant.
His fellow investors backing the deal include several top names in the UK media sector, such as former Financial Times editor Lionel Barber and ex-New York Times chief executive and former BBC director-general Mark Thompson.
Well-known Irish tech investor Barry Maloney of Balderton Capital, whose notable investments include Bebo and Setanta Sports, is also an investor. Former Daily Mirror executive Matt Kelly led fundraising for the venture and will serve as chief executive and editor-in-chief.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr O’Reilly confirmed his will be a full-time executive role at the publication, which has weekly print sales of close to 20,000.
“It has a good home subscription base in the UK. I always used to say at INM that I was agnostic about platform. Digital will be the area of real transformation. The website you see for the New European now is not the one you will see in a few months.”
He suggested the New European might work to develop its digital payments capabilities with media technology company Axate, where he is also chairman and an investor with his brother Cameron O’Reilly.
“The vast majority of people who are directed to a paywall bounce back off it and don’t subscribe. Paywalls can be very binary. I wouldn’t be surprised if the New European works with Axate to address this,” said Mr O’Reilly, who also chairs communications agency Red Flag Consulting.
No financial details for the New European buyout have been disclosed but the Financial Times said about £750,000 has been raised by the consortium for the acquisition.
“The New European is unashamedly Europhile to its core, but it puts the values of strong, independent journalism first; interrogating and questioning the institutions and forces shaping us,” said Mr O’Reilly, who said it would continue to push a “centrist” line.
The paper was founded in 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit vote as a pro-EU voice in the British media. Launched initially as a “pop-up” four-week newspaper, it currently has 20,000 subscribers. Its website has two million page views monthly. The publication is expected to return a profit for the first time in 2022.