Dundalk’s oldest newspaper could be set to change hands

3984901315The ownership of Dundalk’s oldest newspaper could be set to change hands, according to reports in the media at the weekend.

Johnston Press, which owns The Dundalk Democrat and 11 other Irish titles, is reportedly in advanced talks to sell its regional newspapers in the Republic to advertising executive Malcolm Denmark of Mediaforce.

Despite spending more than €200m in Ireland in the last decade, the Sunday Times speculates that a deal for the 12 titles could come in at around €12m, with Johnston Press anxious to recoup whatever they can to pay down their £300m debt.

The Dundalk Democrat was bought by Johnston Press as part of the Leinster Leader group in 2005 for a combined total of €139m. Prior to that the Leinster Leader had bought the paper from the late Tom Roe in the late ‘Nineties.

The Roe family had been involved with the newspaper for over a century after Thomas Roe had bought the paper in 1872, taking over from Joseph Cartan, who founded the Democrat in support of Daniel O’Connell in October 1849.

Current owners Johnston Press operate a number of newspapers around Ireland including The Limerick Leader, The Kilkenny People and the Longford Leader.

Perspective owner Malcolm Denmark has set up a new company, Iconic Newspapers, which is the vehicle to be used in the takeover.

Any deal will have to be referred to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton for approval, while the Competition Authority may also scrutinise the deal.

Mr Denmark, who hails from Britain, built his fortune through Mediaforce, an agency that places advertisements in more than 400 local and national newspapers, magazines and digital publications in Britain and Ireland.

He has a fortune of £71m according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Pre-tax profits at Johnston Press Ireland have fallen from €13m in 2006 to less than €1m last year.