THG seals surprise deal to save London business free sheet City AM
Online retail group THG has sealed a surprise deal to buy London-based business free sheet City AM, the newspaper has confirmed.
The deal saves the business daily, which is distributed to commuters to and from the City of London from Monday to Thursday.
In a release posted to its website, City AM said its 40 editorial staff will move to THG, formerly known as The Hut Group, which is best known as the parent of myriad beauty brands including Cult Beauty and Lookfantastic.
The London-based newspaper was put up for sale earlier this month after it was impacted significantly by the pandemic and a reduction in commuters in the capital.
It said that THG had purchased the business in a pre-pack administration process. Reports of THG's potential bid began circulating earlier today.
City AM co-founder Lawson Muncaster said: “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.
CEO Jens Torpe, who will step down from his position following the deal, said: “During our 18 years we’ve faced a few storms but none as turbulent as the past three years.
“We managed to survive lockdown but unfortunately we didn’t have the money to invest in digital and build on the strong progress we saw during the pandemic.
“I’m therefore delighted that a business like THG has taken over City AM. Their digital expertise will be a great asset, so after 18 years I take comfort in the knowledge that our ‘little baby’ will grow and become more than a teenager.”
Manchester-based THG will provide some of the investment that Torpe had struggled to provide.
It will pour money into resources for the newsroom, and help expand the newspaper’s lifestyle and sports categories.
THG founder Matthew Moulding said he has had several run-ins with the press in recent years amid questions over the performance of his business.
On his LinkedIn page on Wednesday, Moulding said City AM would be independently run but would not be allowed to “get dragged over to the dark side.”
“City AM is a rare breed, having spent decades cheerleading both the UK and businesses alike,” he said.
“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.”
He added: “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’.”
The business publication was previously half-owned by two Dutch private investors, while Torpe and managing director Muncaster also own about a quarter.
City AM is distributed from about 400 travel hubs and commuter locations, as well as about 1,600 London offices.
The move would be widely seen as a somewhat new direction for THG, which primarily runs e-commerce brands and platforms for third parties.
THG would be expected to deepen relationships between its Ingenuity e-commerce platform business and media buying agencies.
The group also holds content syndication partnerships with firms including Google and Bloomberg.