The troubled newspaper group Dunfermline Press, publisher of the Greenock Telegraph and Helensburgh Advertiser, has been rescued after its management bought the company out of receivership for an undisclosed sum.
The company announced on its website that the management of Dunfermline Press, including Graham Morrison, the managing director of subsidiary Clyde Press, Graeme Faulds the group’s finance director and a new director, chartered accountant John Allwood, led the buyout as part of a company restructuring which saw its lenders essentially undertake a debt for equity swap.
Lloyds Banking Group has wiped £10 million from the publishing firm’s estimated £28m debt pile, taking a 20 per cent stake in the 153-year-old business
But differing accounts of the terms of the deal have emerged, with reports claiming that the bank took a 90 per cent stake in the firm, while the directors held a 10 per cent stake.
Both the bank and the receivers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, denied that Lloyds took a majority stake in the company. But sources close to the transaction said that the complex structure of the deal means that Lloyds has the right to take a significant share of the proceeds in the case of a sale of the business.
The directors have formed a new company – Romanes Media Group, named in honour of the late Deirdre Romanes who led the company before her death in 2010. Romanes, originally a nurse from Ireland, became owner and chief executive of the Dunfermline Press group – founded by the Romanes family in 1859 – after her marriage to Iain Romanes.
The sale of the business was made more complicated due to an ongoing dispute over Romanes’ estate, which is still subject to a court battle between her sister and its executors.
Sources said the company wasn’t insolvent when it went into receivership, but that this allowed the directors to form a new company and ensure an “orderly transfer of the business”.
Rumours have abounded that Lloyds was set to take a stake in the business since Romanes death.
The firm publishes about 40 titles across the UK, including the Reading Chronicle and Slough Express which the group acquired for £10m in 2007.
Attempts to sell the group’s Irish titles, including the Anglo-Celt and the Westmeath Independent, were abandoned last year.
The directors of Romanes Media said: “Having worked within the business for a number of years we are delighted to be able to participate fully in the future development of this business. We believe this is the start of a new chapter in the strategic development of Dunfermline Press.”
The statement added that “all trade suppliers will continue to be paid in the normal manner and there is no effect on the contractual position of any of the employees in the group”.