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POST & MAIL SALE CALLED OFF

01-10-2007

The sale of Birmingham's two daily papers, the Post and the Mail has been called off after owners Trinity Mirror failed to attract a suitable offer. Original estimates suggested the sale might attract 250 million, but The Stirrer understands that even the reserve price - in the region of 130 million - wasn't met.

It's news which will come as a shattering blow to hacks on the two titles - and indeed those working on other Trinity Mirror Midlands titles, which encompass a range of weeklies and the Coventry Evening Telegraph.

Even before the sell-off was cancelled last December, cutbacks had left many staff demoralised. It now remains to be seen if the parent company is willing to re-invest in a company which, until yesterday, it was desperate to sell.

It's not as though the regional operation isn't profitable - it generates annual profits in excess of 20 million.

Even last week, amid rumours that a proposed management buyout might collapse, senior figures suggested it would go ahead if only because failure to deliver would represent a huge loss of face for Sly Bailey, the parent company's chief executive.

But with the sale of the Racing Post also attracting a far lower price tag (170 million) than originally expected, shareholders might have revolted if they were also short-changed on this deal.

Bailey said: "Throughout this process we made it clear that we were not prepared to sell our high quality media assets at any price."

That's fair enough. The question is - how much of a good deal did the sale represent?

Trinity Mirror have already sold off the Post and Mail building in Birmingham and were proposing to keep hold of the printing presses.

That would have left the local titles as nothing more than collection of brand names and a group of journalists, with no collateral.

It's hardly surprising potential buyers weren't queuing up with open chequebooks.

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