Moulding eyes media moghul status with City A.M. deal
North West entrepreneur Matthew Moulding has completed the acquisition of free newspaper City A.M. in a prepack deal.
City A.M. co-founder Lawson Muncaster said on the City A.M. website that the deal represented a “perfect fit” for the business.
“We both believe firmly in the power of business to make peoples’ lives better and we cannot wait to get started with our new partners,” he said.
The story goes on to say that THG, which already publishes digital magazines linked to its own health and beauty products and claims a circulation of 600,000, called The Supplement and The Highlight.
Moulding said he has been looking for a partner in the media space for some time.
THG will invest in both editorial and technological resources for the newsroom as well as expanding the paper’s lifestyle and sports categories, with further investment into new areas including sustainability, wellness technology and beauty.
The post-deal business, which has been purchased in a pre-pack deal from appointed administrators BDO, will also invest in further events building on existing set-pieces including the City A.M. Awards and THG’s annual Future of Commerce event.
“We’ve long been reviewing opportunities in the disruptive media space but have waited for the right time and the right opportunity to make a digital step-change in adtech capabilities for Ingenuity,” Moulding said, referring to the firm’s digital brand building and e-commerce platform.
On his LinkedIn on Wednesday night Moulding pledged to keep the paper independent.
“In fact, CityAM is a rare breed, having spent decades cheerleading both the UK and businesses alike. Years ago, newspapers worked closely with businesses to understand the UK market and whip up public support for UK policies. This helped drive UK competitiveness on a global stage. But that model is long gone.
“Maybe Twitter played a part, a platform where wild controversy and views can be aired without the same media regulation, dragging huge audiences away from traditional media. Add TikTok and Meta into the mix and competition to attract eyeballs is a crowded space. Traditional media has had to adapt to stay relevant, and no doubt has shifted closer to the Twitter model than many will admit. After all, audience numbers are what matter in driving ad revenues.
“The fact that most of Britain’s media is foreign owned can’t be ideal. Almost all the press have long abandoned their LSE listings. Even the Financial Times recently raised the white flag, left the LSE, and sold itself to the Japanese.
“So, while THG is mostly interested in building ad tech reach with CityAM, it has to be a good thing that one of the UK’s most influential business papers remains in UK ownership.”
He said that neither he nor the Board would be driving editorial content. But said he wanted the paper to back UK business.
“There’s a clear gap in the UK business media, one that supports and appreciates UK business, and is keen to see the UK improve our global competitiveness. CityAM, THG, and our partners, will now step up further to fill this gap, loud and clear.
“And so, supported by unswerving investment from THG, there will be just one rule for the future editorial direction of CityAM: ‘Where possible, be a cheerleader for both the UK and businesses alike, and don’t get dragged over to the dark side.’
Moulding, who can count his chairman Lord Charles Allen and former BBC marketing chief Sue Farr as his trusted board advisers, has been at loggerheads with large sections of the media since his disastrous float of THG in 2020.
Earlier this year he got into an unseemly online row, reported by TheBusinessDesk.com here with investigative reporter Dan McCrum from the Financial Times who he implied was colluding with hostile forces in the City.
However, when initially contacted by TheBusinessDesk.com, THG declined to comment, but confirmed by referring to City A.M.’s confirmation of the deal.
City A.M. has a daily print run of 70,000 and an audited circulation of just over 67,000.
DLA Piper advised THG on the deal. Rob Russell, Manchester-based partner in DLA Piper’s finance, projects and restructuring team and head of UK restructuring, said: “As the City of London’s leading financial newspaper, City AM has become a trusted name for insights and analysis. We are pleased to have been able to support this transaction which is protecting jobs and allowing the newspaper to continue its reports on stories which are crucial to the success of business across the capital.”