SMG Revives Herald Auction as Gannett Tries to Slash Price

19 December 2002

Lesson #1 for Sassenachs and other non-Caledonians: never try to bulldoze the Scots on price after you have shaken hands on it!

Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, learned this the hard way this week after trying to renegotiate its £215 million ($343.60m; €335.44m) deal to buy Scottish Media Group’s Herald newspaper stable [WAMN: 11-Dec-02].

SMG whirled its dirk and placed the titles back on the market by reopening negotiations with Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media. Although talks between SMG and Gannett have not formally been terminated, the latter’s period of exclusivity expired at midnight Tuesday.

It seems the US-Caledonian accord was shattered after Gannett examined the Q4 sales forecasts for the Glasgow-based newspaper trio (The Herald, the Sunday Herald and the Evening Times) – all likely to undershoot their targets. It promptly reduced its offer by £12m and SMG equally promptly called Sir Anthony – the quondam ceo of Heinz-turned-newspaper-tycoon.

IN&M is thought to have offered £210m before being trumped by Gannett’s £215m bid. But SMG faces an uphill struggle to achieve anything near to a true market price for the properties – it being well known they are part of a fire sale necessitated by a £400m Ben Nevis of debt.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff