It has been a time of great uncertainty for INM with issues affecting the company including the High Court’s appointment of inspectors to investigate its affairs, as well as management changes and the seeking of job cuts across editorial, publishing and commercial operations.
Today’s announcement of a bid will be seen as giving employees at the group - and media consumers - some certainty about its future.
So just who is Mediahuis, now poised to become a major player in the Irish media market?
The company was formed in 2013 following the merger of two long standing publishing companies and now has significant holdings in the Belgian and Dutch media markets.
Its papers include De Telegraaf and NRC Handelsblad in the Netherlands and De Standaard and Het Niewsblad in Belgium.
Both its chairman and its CEO came to Dublin for today’s announcement, with chair Thomas Leyson saying the company has been working towards the offer for some time. His own family has been involved in publishing for four decades and, as one of his other roles is as chairman of KBC group, he is also very familiar with the Irish financial market.
Although it has interests in radio, regional television and sports, Mediahuis’ primary focus is news. It sells 1.4 million newspapers a day across its titles and markets and said today it believes in ‘independent and quality journalism’ as well as ‘strong and relevant media’.
Globally, media organisations have gone through huge changes in recent years as the industry moves from the traditional model of producing a newspaper and having people pay for it, to a world where news is available online and consumers have to be persuaded to pay for something they increasingly feel they can - and even should - get free of change.
Mediahuis have had success domestically in persuading their readers to pay for news using pay walls and subscription models. At this early stage of the transaction they were unable to outline today what their plans were for INM, but it was clear the move to digital is a major focus for them and they will be bringing their domestic experience to bear on the Irish market if they take over here.
INM publishes papers including the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Herald, several regional newspapers and also has online interests.
Mediahuis said today it believes in ‘independent brands’, and that the papers in its group retain their independence while joining forces in areas like technology where it feels consolidation is useful or necessary.
The Irish secretary of the NUJ Seamus Dooley described today’s announcement as enormously significant and he welcomed the end to speculation about the future of the company. He also noted Mediahuis’ track record of investment in editorial resources and said he looked forward to discussions with the proposed new owners about their plans.
The purchase, if it goes ahead, will also have repercussions for media ownership here. Following the recent purchase of Landmark Media by the Irish Times, that paper now controls both the Irish Times and the Irish Examiner titles.
Meanwhile, Denis O’Brien, whose Communicorp group runs radio stations including Newstalk and Today FM, had been a major shareholder in INM, so today’s development will reduce his overall holdings in Irish media.