Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has signed a $36.6 million deal to buy APN News & Media’s Australian regional newspaper business, which includes The Northern Star and Tweed Daily News.
The deal – which is subject to approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – also covers the weekly publications, Byron Shire News, Ballina Advocate, the Lismore Echo and the Richmond River Examiner.
News Corp, already holds a stake of almost 15 per cent in APN, which means shareholder approval would also be required for what would be deemed a related-party transaction.
APN Australian Regional Media has a portfolio of 12 daily and more than 60 non-daily Australian regional newspapers.
Staff at the Northern Star and the other publications received an email just before 11am today confirming that the deal had been struck.
APN’s chief executive Ciaran Davis described the deal as an ‘historic day as we are letting go of our custodianship of a great business’.
APN chairman Peter Cosgrove said the divestment was another significant milestone in APN pivoting its future towards radio and outdoor media assets.
‘The divestment of ARM is an historic day for the company as APN has been the custodian of some wonderful newspapers whose community roots go back over 150 years,’’ Mr Cosgrove said.
‘We are now passing that ownership onto another media group with deep publishing experience across regional Australia.’
Echo Publications general manager Simon Haslam saw the sale differently.
‘This is bad news for readers in the northern rivers, as it further increases the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp,’ Mr Haslam said.
‘We will now have a huge multinational, even larger than APN, controlling papers like the Northern Star, Byron Shire News, Ballina Advocate and Lismore Echo.
‘In addition to the malignant corporate influence, we can expect an increased homogeneity of news and opinion and a further reduction in the free-thinking, independent press that regions like this deserve.’
Echo Publications publishes the Byron Shire Echo and the Echonetdaily, and is locally owned and produced.