Nine Entertainment has agreed to sell its regional and community newspapers for $115 million, offloading about 170 titles acquired last year in its merger with Fairfax Media.
The Australian Community Media and Printing titles, which include the Canberra Times, The Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury, have been bought by a company controlled by former Fairfax executive Antony Catalano and ASX-listed Thorney Investment Group.
Nine, which will retain metropolitan titles – including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review – said on Tuesday it will receive $115 million in cash plus up to $10 million of advertising in ACM titles over three years.
“The sale of ACM is aligned with our strategy to exit non-core businesses and to focus on Nine’s portfolio of high-growth, digital assets,” Nine chief executive High Marks said.
“We will retain a commercial relationship with ACM and look forward to continuing to work with the business in areas where there are mutual benefits to both Nine and ACM.”
The deal includes a content-sharing arrangement “for a short transitional period” and preserves commercial arrangements, including ACM’s printing of Nine’s metropolitan titles.
Mr Catalano spent 26 years with Fairfax and was chief executive of Domain for four years, leading the property classifieds business through its 2017 spinoff from Fairfax into a separately listed business.
Mr Catalano suddenly quit as Domain CEO in January 2018, just two months after the real estate juggernaut was listed as a separate entity on the ASX. He is also a former property editor of The Age.
He was also involved in a last-minute bid to prevent the merger of Fairfax and the Nine Network in November 2018. That failed when shareholders voted overwhelmingly for the merger to go ahead.
In a statement to Nine staff, Mr Marks confirmed that Fairfax’s marketing business Events and New Zealand website Stuff were still for sale.
“We will continue to speak with interested parties in the coming weeks and will work with both teams on the proposals being considered,” he said.