THE HIGH COURT has approved the appointment of an interim examiner to the company behind the Sunday Business Post newspaper.
Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton has been tasked with finding a viable business plan for Post Publications Ltd, the company behind the weekly publication.
The moves follow the entry into receivership yesterday of Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) Ltd, the ultimate parent company behind the newspaper.
Justice Peter Kelly was told that the newspaper has 76 full-time employees, and 123 freelance contributors and has made a loss of €1.2 million in the year to 2013 having been loss-making since 2009.
In making the appointment the judge said that it was “desirable and even necessary” that the interim examiner be appointed to ensure that the paper was published this coming Sunday with arrangements being made for printing facilities to be availed of.
This follows the liquidation of Thomas Crosbie Printers – with the loss of 12 jobs – as part of the complex receivership arrangement under taken by TCH yesterday.
‘Root and branch’ effort to reduce costs
The court was told that the Post Publications Ltd’s annual revenue had fallen by over half – from €15.3 million to €7.3 million – in the last five years, while circulation revenue had dropped from €4.9 million to €3.6 million in the same period.
The Sunday Business Post has a readership of 140,000 per week and accounts for 10 per cent of the Sunday broadsheet market, the court heard.
Post Publications Ltd was said to be undertaking a ‘root and branch’ effort to reduce its costs, of which payroll constitutes 47 per cent.
It heard that company management had been seeking to impose pay cut of 7 per cent and had been negotiating with its staff to try and achieve this.
The company has also fallen into arrears on the rent of its premises on Harcourt Street in Dublin, on which it currently pays 50 per cent of annual rent of €400,000. Efforts to reduce this cost have so far been unsuccessful.
Winding up the company would result in a deficiency to creditors of €6.508 million whereas if the company remained operating as an ongoing concern there would be a deficiency of €638,000, the court heard.
The company’s two biggest secured creditors are the Revenue Commissioners – though the court heard it has no historic tax liability – and Allied Irish Banks (AIB). Its largest unsecured creditor is its landlord for the Harcourt Street premises.
The appointment of an interim examiner means the company is afforded court protection and cannot be subject to a winding-up order from its creditors.
The case is due before the court again on Friday, 15 March.
The entry into receivership of Thomas Crosbie Holdings Ltd prompted a management-led buyout of the Irish Examiner, the group’s other major national title, along with its local newspapers and radio stations.
The acquisition by Landmark Media Investments Ltd, run by Tom Crosbie and his father Ted – the fifth and fourth generations of the Crosbie family to be involved in the Examiner group respectively – safeguarded 554 jobs at those papers and radio stations.
Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly