Johnston Press survives — but at a human cost

Johnston Press has escaped its debts — but it leaves behind angry investors, and hits employees right in the pensions.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Johnston Press is not being sold — it's being reborn.

Regional publisher Johnston Press is under new ownership after its bondholders agreed to wipe out £135m of the company’s debts in return for control of the business.
A newly-formed company, JPIMedia, has taken charge of the 251-year-old publisher in a “pre-packaged” sale after it was briefly placed in administration earlier today.

Short version: the company survives, but now in the hands of the its lenders. That means the business is in the hands of the moneymen, which will be a challenging environment.

The price? The existing shareholders saw their investment destroyed in one fell swoop. And the staff, but current and former, face a pensions nightmare:

The company announced on Friday night that the pension scheme would not transfer to the new owners and that the government’s ‘lifeboat’ scheme, the Pension Protection Fund, would now assess whether the scheme needs to enter the PFF.

The staff still have jobs — for now — but their pensions are in a precarious states. The company is no longer seriously indebted, and may well be profitable. But the human price of that is pretty major.

Let's hope it's worth it. Because the journalistic issues I highlighted all still remain. Could this give them the financial room to address that? I'd love to see it — but really won't be holding my breath.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.