Sports titles up for sale at Trinity Mirror

Trinity Mirror announced today that it is to sell the Racing Post, as well as the rest of the group’s sports division in a disposal thought to be worth £200 million.

National titles the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, the Daily Record in Scotland and the People will be retained, following the company’s strategic review conducted in response to the ongoing downturn in newspaper advertising revenues. But a slew of local and regional newspapers will be sold.

Following the review, 137 local papers are to be put up for sale, including the Birmingham Post and Mail, the South London Press, the Reading Chronicle and the Yellow Advertiser series.

The company also said it would adopt a new technology-led operating model to accelerate growth and reduce costs, bringing print and online operations closer together and investing in IT systems.

“The review demonstrated that there is considerable additional value that can be delivered to shareholders through a new, technology-enabled operating model that will generate benefits for advertisers and readers alike,” the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

“These changes will enable the group to make a number of cost savings and also offer opportunities to generate additional revenue as well as provide a stronger platform for investment and long-term growth.”

The group also said it had rejected an offer for its national titles because it had “substantially undervalued” the assets.

Trinity said it would develop the online presence of its UK nationals with new-look websites focusing on the “key content strands” of news, sport and showbiz.

But the sports division had “minimal overlap” in terms of readership, advertising base or editorial content with Trinity’s other titles and was a standalone business, the company said.

“The board therefore believes that the growth opportunities available to this specialist publishing business would be better served under different ownership,” Trinity said. “It is the intention of the board that, as part of any divestment, the Racing Post brand is protected and strengthened.”

The Racing Post, the country’s only daily betting newspaper following its merger with the Sporting Life, this year saw off opposition from new title, The Sportsman, which folded within a few months of its launch.

Trinity said the disposal processes would be handled by its bankers, Rothschild, and expected them to be completed during the second and third quarters of 2007, subject to it receiving “full and attractive” offers.

The National Union of Journalists issued a statement which read: “For those titles which are now under the auctioneer’s hammer, the NUJ will be demanding that any new owner is committed to investing in journalism as the way to creating a successful newspaper and online publishing business.

“The union will also continue to defend our members left in Trinity Mirror from aggressive cost-cutting which is the hallmark of Sly Bailey’s management style.”

Other titles in Trinity Mirror’s sports division which will be part of the sale include Raceform and spors book publisher Highdown Books.