The Irish Times has bought The Irish Examiner group, ending the Crosbie family’s association with the title that goes back as far as 1842.
The Irish Times, which has struggled after some ill-starred investments, agreed to take over the titles belonging to the Landmark Media group by assuming its debt-pile, restructured by AIB.
The bank was reported to have written off some €10m. The Irish Times wanted to protect some of its printing contracts.
The deal will have to be cleared by Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the Irish government and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and that is expected to take at least four months.
Negotiations had been going on for several months. As well as publishing the Irish Examiner, the Landmark Media group – itself created after an extensive debt restructuring a few years ago – owns Cork’s Evening Echo, the Waterford News & Star, the Western People, the four Nationalist titles, the Roscommon Herald, radio station Beat, a 75 per cent stake in Waterford’s WLR, a near-18 per cent share of Cork’s Red FM, Breakingnews.ie, Irishexaminer.com, Recruitireland.com and most of Benchwarmers.ie.
The five-generation ownership of the Examiner by Cork’s Crosbie family had, until last week, survived “the Famine, World War 1, the War of Independence, the Civil War, the Great Depression of 1930, de Valera’s Economic War of the mid-30s, World War II and several recessions”.
The family’s association with the title started in 1842 with Kerryman Thomas Crosbie who, aged 15, joined the then Cork Examiner newspaper’s staff while it was under the ownership of John Francis Maguire. The MP and barrister had opened the newspaper just a year earlier.
The young Crosbie made an instant impression as a gifted newspaper man and rapidly ascended to the editor’s position. When Maguire died in 1872, Thomas Crosbie became proprietor. He turned the newspaper from a three-evenings-per-week publication to a six-mornings-per-week title. He launched the Evening Echo, in 1892.
At one point Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) was Ireland’s fastest fastest growing media company acquiring a newspaper almost every year in a buying spree of media assets including radio stations. At one point, the group owned 18 newspapers.
In 2006 the company was debt free following the sale of its historic home in Cork’s Academy Street. Five years later in 2011 TCH was mired in debts totaling €27m and two years later, in March 2013, it went into receivership emerging as Landmark Media Group.
In June Landmark’s Wexford titles which included the Wexford Echo, Gorey Echo, New Ross Echo and the Enniscorthy Echo, went into liquidation although Landmark has technically been profitable.
It recorded a profit of €229,000 in 2016 after recording a €15.7 million loss in 2015 thanks to a huge, one-off charge. It has been servicing huge debts including a €19.5 million loan from Thomas Crosbie Holdings.
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 on revenues of €82 million.