Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Do the Mirror a Favour, Sly. Sell It

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Do the Mirror a Favour, Sly. Sell It

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW NEIL

NEWS that Trinity Mirror considered a u1.3 billion takeover from a consortium of venture capitalists last autumn confirms that the Daily Mirror and the other national titles in the Trinity stable - as well as its dozens of regional titles - have a "for sale" hanging from their mastheads. The offer of 450p a share from private equity groups Apax and Candover was rejected as too low, and I don't expect a higher offer from them or anybody else in the immediate future.

But Trinity's major institutional shareholders are now indicating that they are interested in selling, provided (I'm told) the price is north of 500p a share - hardly a huge premium on what was on offer last autumn.

These are times of great uncertainty for the Daily Mirror and its Sunday sister titles. Venture capitalists would be no better at running national newspapers than the current Trinity management.

So, after any purchase, they would quickly sell on the Mirror titles to somebody else, probably at a prearranged price, leaving them with the lucrative regional titles to fatten up for future sale at a huge profit.

That is how private-equity companies operate, and it is no accident that a leading light in Candover is Chris Oakley, who knows all there is know about regional newspapers. I have no idea in whose tender care Mirror newspapers would eventually end up, but there is never a shortage of people anxious to own a national newspaper - and I'm pretty sure it will not be a publicly quoted company, or PLC, like Trinity Mirror.

British national newspapers need to be directed by strong proprietors with ink in their veins - owners who are newspaper publishers as much as they are businessmen. Rupert Murdoch's News International, Lord Rothermere's Associated Newspapers and Conrad Black's Telegraph group are all nominally PLCs - but they are controlled by one strong individual or family with a huge personal stake in the business. …

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