'Tribune' in receivership after IN&M pulls out

 

THE SUNDAY Tribunenewspaper has been placed into receivership after its main financial backer, Independent News & Media (IN&M), withdrew its support from the company yesterday.

The move puts the jobs of 43 staff at the newspaper in doubt although IN&M has agreed to pay staff for four more weeks to give the receiver – Jim Luby of McStay Luby – an opportunity to secure an investor for the title.

It was not clear yesterday if Mr Luby would have sufficient financial resources to publish the newspaper this Sunday. He needs to be able to meet the printing costs and secure insurance cover for the period of the receivership. A decision is expected today.

IN&M, which owns 29.9 per cent of the newspaper after becoming a shareholder in 1992, is believed to be owed about €40 million by Tribune Newspapers plc.

This includes €27 million in loan capital.

IN&M informed the board of the Tribuneyesterday that it was no longer prepared to support the newspaper, which is currently losing about €2.75 million a year.

The Tribunehas struggled financially for several years. It was relaunched in a tabloid format last September, a move that cost about €750,000. This is believed to have boosted its circulation by about 5,000 a week initially.

However its paid-for sales have dipped below 40,000 recently. Its advertising revenues have also been in decline for some time.

The newspaper has also struggled to compete with better resourced rivals, including the Sunday Independent, owned by IN&M, and the Sunday Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Tribune chairman Gordon Colleary said the decision to appoint a receiver was taken with “great regret”. “We recognise additional investment will be required if it is to play a continuing role in the highly competitive Sunday market,” he added. “My firm hope is that new investment can be secured to ensure the future of the title.”

IN&M said it was hopeful that new investors “may emerge to safeguard the future of this quality Sunday title”.

It is thought to be willing to take a big haircut on its debt if a new investor can be secured.

Founded in the early 1980s, the Tribunehas had a number of high-profile editors, including broadcasters Vincent Browne and Matt Cooper, and Conor Brady, a former editor of The Irish Times. However even during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger it did not make a profit. Latest accounts show it made an operating loss of €3 million in 2009.

The Tribuneis the only loss-making newspaper in the IN&M stable. The Irish company last year sold its loss-making Independenttitles in London and its 50-50 joint venture Star Newspapers recently axed its loss-making Sunday title.