Surplus to requirements?

James Evelegh's editorial from this week's edition of InPubWeekly.

By James Evelegh

Surplus to requirements?

This week saw the announcement that Time Inc UK had been acquired by private equity company Epiris. The price was not disclosed but was rumoured to be in the region of £130m.

To put that figure into context, in 1998 when Cinven bought IPC Media (as the publisher was then known), the purchase price was £860m, and when Cinven then sold the company to Time Warner in 2001, it was for £1,150m. The recent history of consumer media in numbers.

So, what’s in store for the publisher of over fifty titles, including TV Times, Marie Claire, Wallpaper* and Cycling Weekly?

Epiris’ Chris Hanna says: “At its heart, this is a diverse, robust and cash-generative business. We intend to bring clarity and simplicity to it.” His colleague Alex Fortescue talks of there being "plentiful scope for transformation through operational improvement and M&A." Marcus Rich, Time Inc UK’s CEO, looks forward to continuing “our transformation journey”.

Improved productivity and a sharper focus on a smaller number of brands in a smaller number of sectors seems to be the direction of travel. Depth over breadth.

So, we’re probably looking at staff cuts and the sell-off of those brands seen as either under-performing or non-core.

If you’re one of the excess headcount, then I’m afraid it’s hard to spin the outlook positively.

If you’re working on one of the soon-to-be-deemed “non-core” brands, then the outlook is altogether brighter. You’re still publishing, so presumably still making a profit. In recent years, you’ve probably had less love and attention than you need, so are perhaps flat-lining. In a new home, either via an MBO or through acquisition, a new lease of life awaits as you get love-bombed by your new owners.

For these titles, the sooner Epiris cracks on with its M&A programme, the better.