THE Ashbourne News Telegraph's parent company has joined forces with other regional publishing giants in a move bosses claim heralds ‘a fightback for local newspapers’.
Iliffe News and Media has entered into a multi-million pound deal to form Local World, a new group also including Northcliffe Media, the regional publishing arm of Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT).
Mike Richardson, managing director of Iliffe News and Media Central, said: "This is a very exciting time for the Ashbourne News Telegraph, and this announcement signals the fightback for content and advertising that has drifted to other online competitors.
"We now have the advantage of scale, yet remain the only truly local source of news, sport and community information.
"Local World’s vision corresponds with our own views that our investment in products and people, with the technology to support them, will drive our business forward, turning it from one dimension into a multi-media environment, accessible by anybody on any platform.
"That has to be the best aim for all of the regional press."
Iliffe’s parent company, Yattendon Group Plc, will take a 21.3 per cent stake in the Local World, becoming the second largest shareholder after DMGT.
Trinity Mirror and other investors including the Artefact Group, an investment fund associated with ex-Conservative Party chairman Lord Ashcroft and Odey Asset Management, will both hold 20 per cent.
Local World will be chaired by David Montgomery, one of the most experienced media executives in the UK, while Steve Auckland, former managing director of Metro, Yorkshire Post Newspapers and Northcliffe Media, will be chief executive.
Rachel Addison, Northcliffe’s chief financial officer, will assume the same role at Local World, and Edward Iliffe, Yattendon’s chief executive officer, and Lisa Gordon, its chief operating officer, will sit on the board.
Local World will pursue ‘ambitious’ transformation plans - including a £10 million investment in its increasingly important digital arm - to provide print and online readers ‘with high quality, reliable and useful content in whatever format they choose’.
Mr Montgomery and his colleagues boast a portfolio which includes 63 websites with a monthly audience of more than seven million users.
The print business includes 16 daily titles, such as the Mail, 36 paid-for weeklies, 40 free weeklies, two Metro franchises and niche products including magazines, all of which have a combined readership of six million people.
The News Telegraph's sister titles, the Burton Mail, Staffordshire Newsletter, Uttoxeter Advertiser, Uttoxeter Post and Times, Leek Post and Times and Nuneaton News are also included in the deal, along with Staffordshire Life magazine.