A billionaire British aristocrat is taking the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail Online private after agreeing to buy out minority shareholders in a deal valuing the company at £885 million ($1.2 billion).
Lord Rothermere, whose great grandfather founded the newspaper empire in 1896, announced the buyout bid for Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) in July. The deal with shareholders will end 90 years of trading in the company’s shares on the London Stock Exchange.
The Daily Mail reportedly overtook Rupert Murdoch’s Sun as Britain’s biggest tabloid newspaper last year, and last month it had a circulation of about 900,000, according to the Press Gazette. Its Saturday edition is the most read newspaper in the United Kingdom.
The Mail Online has grown into one of the world’s leading English language news websites, with big audiences in the United States and Australia. DMGT is also home to free newspapers popular with commuters.
Rothermere, 53, owned 36% of the group before he launched his bid for complete control. Shareholders rejected his first offer as too low but enough of them accepted a revised bid, increasing his stake to nearly 85% of DMGT and allowing him to delist the stock. The remaining shareholders have until January 6 to accept the final offer or they’ll be left with shares in the privately-owned company.
The buyout comes after DMGT met certain conditions laid down by Rothermere, including the sale of its insurance business RMS to Moody’s for £1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) cash. That was completed in September. Another condition was the listing of UK-based online car dealer Cazoo, in which DMGT owns a 20% stake. Cazoo made its Wall Street debut in August.
Following his initial bid in July, Rothermere told staff he was committed to the company’s newsrooms.
“We want to reassure you that if this does go ahead, it is business as usual,” he said in an email to staff, part of which was shared with CNN Business.
“Whilst there will be changes connected to our corporate structure, what won’t change is our commitment to maintaining both long-term value in investing through the cycle, as well as a diversified portfolio of market-leading brands,” he wrote.
Earlier this month, the publisher lost a court appeal in a privacy case brought by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, against the Mail on Sunday, after it reproduced parts of a private letter she wrote to her father.
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