The South London Press, the Mercury, the London Weekly News titles, including the Westminster, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicles, Kensington & Chelsea News and the Westminster & Pimlico News series as well as the View From series and Pulman’s Weekly News in Dorset, now pass into the hands of executives Philip Evans, Karen Sheppard and Hannah Walker.
However, Sir Ray insists the deal does not signal his retirement. He is now celebrating his 90th year and has no intention to stand back from front-line management. He says the sale is to ensure the long life of the papers which include some of the oldest in the country. The deal still leaves him with the ownership of approaching 200 titles across the country (plus percentages from 8% to 49% in more than another 200 papers making his interest in the local press still total more than 400 titles). He intends to remain hands-on, says the company.
In this unique deal Sir Ray also remains a 10% shareholder in the newspapers with Karen, Philip and Hannah holding equal shares of 30% each.
The new group owned by Karen, Philip and Hannah is called Capital Media Newspapers Limited and will continue to operate from London and Lyme Regis.
The South London Press celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015 and Sir Ray threw a party on board HMS Belfast in London attended by HRH the Countess of Wessex, Secretary of State For Culture Media & Sport, John Whittingdale, and the entire staff of the paper.
At the event Sir Ray emphasised the key role local newspapers play up and down the country and how they are fundamental to democracy. Sir Ray Tindle, who bought his first paper after receiving demobilisation money as did all those who were in the Army during the Second World War, has a reputation for making failing newspapers viable. With a staff he describes as one of the very best in the UK press, Tindle Newspapers has launched, or bought up, 47 titles since the start of this recession.
On this latest announcement Sir Ray said it made complete sense to sell the London and Dorset titles to the people who currently run them. He wished Karen, Hannah and Philip and the whole staff all the very best for the future. He said the staffs of these papers were superb. Certain cooperative ventures, such as the current move into digital which is already showing results, will continue under the control of Scott Wood.
Philip, who originally launched the successful View From series, said: “Having managed local newspapers in London earlier in my career, I am looking forward to the challenge of working alongside Karen and Hannah in continuing to build our stable of titles in the capital as well as retaining my Dorset links with Pulman’s Weekly News and the View From series, which I launched in 2005. All three of us share Sir Ray’s undeviating faith in the future of local newspapers and we are excited by the opportunity he has given us and the talented staff we will lead.”
Karen, who has been managing director of the South London Press for 18 months and who successfully managed Sir Ray’s business in Farnham previously, said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity, one which I embrace whole heartedly. I look forward to continuing the successful programme of change and improvements the team have been working on for the past 12 months, building on the launch of new titles in central London and enhancing the reputation of the South London Press as one of the capital’s iconic local newspapers with 150 years of history behind it.”
Hannah, who has edited the South London Press for the last 16 years and who began her career as a reporter nearly 30 years ago in Birmingham, said: “It’s always been a huge privilege editing these papers in South London and now to have the chance to steer them further to a healthy future is a huge challenge and opens up yet another new era for these fantastic titles and the brilliant staff that work for them. All three of us cannot wait to get started.”