THE IRISH TIMES has agreed to buy the Cork-based media company that publishes the Irish Examiner.
After months of speculation, it has been confirmed that the Irish Times has bought the publishing and media interests belonging to the Landmark Media group for an undisclosed sum.
The deal will have to be cleared by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the government and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
It is expected to take at least four months for the watchdogs to give the acquisition the green light, if it is approved.
As well as publishing the Irish Examiner, the Landmark Media group also produces Cork’s daily Evening Echo newspaper.
The portfolio includes seven other local titles: the Waterford News & Star, the Western People, the four Nationalist titles and the Roscommon Herald.
If the deal is cleared in its entirety, the Irish Times will acquire radio station Beat, a 75% stake in Waterford’s WLR and a near-18% share of Cork’s Red FM.
It will also take ownership of Breakingnews.ie, Irishexaminer.com, Recruitireland.com and a majority share of sports website Benchwarmers.ie.
Irish Times managing director Liam Kavanagh said the increased audience will allow the group to “build a digital platform with a strong reach, countrywide and internationally”.
He said if the competition watchdogs give the deal the all-clear, the Irish Times is “fully committed to working with the respective union groups in each company and on any restructuring proposals that will need to be made”.
Landmark Media Investments chief executive Tom Murphy thanked staff and board members for their support throughout the process.
He said that he believed the sale was in the best interests of both Landmark’s shareholders and the media industry in general.
“Consolidation within the industry is an inevitable outcome and both Irish-owned groups will be best positioned to survive and prosper as part of a larger, stronger and better-resourced and unified entity.”
The Landmark Media group recorded a profit of €229,000 in 2016 after recording a €15.7 million loss the previous year thanks to a huge, one-off charge.
However, despite the profitability, the media company remained burdened with huge debts after carrying over a €19.5 million loan from its predecessor, Thomas Crosbie Holdings. In June, one of its local titles, Wexford Echo, went into liquidation.
The firm employed an average of 439 people last year, while the Irish Times had an average 455 people on its books in 2016.
The Irish Times recorded a loss of €1.25 million last year, although its revenues of €82 million were nearly double those at Landmark Media.