AAP Finance

Stuff takes ‘brave leap’, buying out Nine

By AAP Newswire

Nine Entertainment has agreed to a management buyout of New Zealand media giant, Stuff Limited, by its current chief executive Sinead Boucher.

Nine will sell Stuff for $NZ1 by May 31, retaining ownership of the Petone print plant site in Wellington, to be leased back to Stuff.

Ms Boucher plans an ownership revolution at the media conglomerate, allowing staff to buy a stake in their employer.

She trumpeted the sale in an all-staff email on Monday morning which brings "the business back to local ownership and giving us the chance to take control of our own future".

The sale ends a years-long 'will-they, won't-they' merger saga between Stuff and NZME, New Zealand's other major print player.

NZME attempted to buy Stuff for the same amount earlier this month, even taking Stuff to the High Court in an unsuccessful bid to continue negotiations.

After the breakdown of those talks, Ms Boucher said she began negotiations to buy the company herself.

"From there the process has moved very quickly," she wrote.

"My plan is to develop an ownership model which will give staff a shareholding stake in the business."

Stuff is New Zealand's biggest employer of journalists, publishes Wellington and Christchurch's daily newspapers and owns a string of other media outlets.

Nine will also receive 25 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of Stuff Fibre sale, plus up to a further 75 per cent over 36 months if Stuff is able to raise funding.

Nine expects to take a charge of $A40 million to $A45 million related to the sale in its full-year accounts.

After the acrimonious talks with NZME, Ms Boucher said the decision to take on ownership was not easy.

"Like other New Zealand businesses we have been badly affected by Covid-19, and we still have a tough job in front of us to build the business back up to a position of strength," she said.

"Earlier this year, when planning some of those initiatives for the business, we asked Maori Affairs reporter Carmen Parahi to help us think of an appropriate phrase to sum up what we wanted to achieve.

"She came up with 'Kia tupeke te toa', which means 'Let the brave leap'. Those words really struck me, and have often come to mind over these past weeks as I considered what to do.

"Now, I am looking forward to us all taking a brave leap, and forging an exciting future for ourselves and our business."

In other Kiwi media news on Monday, Mediaworks announced 130 job losses, mainly in radio and sales divisions, which chief executive Michael Anderson attributed to COVID-19.

"This is a very sad time for MediaWorks. Our focus is on our people right now," he said.