LONDON: In a surprise move, Emap, the publishing industry's equivalent of the famed Oozlum bird, has sold its business-to-business magazine stable to an alliance of Guardian Media Group and London-headquartered global private equity firm Apax Partners.

Eyebrows hit hairlines as news of the sale reached London's media parish pump - especially as Emap announced just two weeks ago it had withdrawn the B2B business from its assets auction after bids failed to reach the reserve level.

The cash on the table is said to be around £1 billion ($1.98bn; €1.37bn) for the firm's assets, plus an additional £384 million in debt.

Says GMG ceo Carolyn McCall: "The acquisition meets our requirements in terms of diversifying GMG's media interests, in line with our commitment to guarantee the long-term financial security of The Guardian [its trust-owned national newspaper]."

And Apax representative Irina Hammers revealed that the duo plan to extend the B2B franchises internationally.

They include the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival and magazines such as Construction News, fashion-industry title Drapers and Retail Week.

The deal seals the imminent demise of Emap as an active commercial entity. In response to shareholder pressure, the once-mighty firm has progressively sold-off its assets to the delight of the moneymen and the dolour of its employees.

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