Freshfields and MoFo take lead roles on DMGT local paper sell-off

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Morrison & Foerster (MoFo), Norton Rose and Olswang have advised as the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) sells its regional newspaper arm Northcliffe Media to a consortium led by former Mirror Group CEO David Montgomery.

The deal sees newly formed media venture Local World acquire Northcliffe for £52.5m in cash, with DMGT retaining a 38.7 per cent stake in the vehicle.

Shareholders in Local World include the Iliffe family, owners of Yattendon Group, who will have a 21.3 per cent stake. Media group Trinity Mirror will have a 20 per cent holding, while the remaining shares will be purchased by other investors including Lord Ashcroft’s investment fund Artefact Group and Odey Asset Management.

The Iliffe family’s stake is in exchange for the sale to Local World of Iliffe News & Media – which owns papers such as Cambridge News – and sees the company’s 36 titles combined with the Northcliffe ones.

A London team at MoFo advised David Montgomery and Local World on the establishment of the company and the acquisition, with corporate partner Ed Lukins leading alongside corporate associate Mary Lappas, City office managing partner and tax specialist Trevor James, technology partner Alistair Maughan and financial transactions partner Daniel Leventhal.

Freshfields advised DMGT, with the team led by corporate partner Natasha Good with assistance from senior associate Simon Price and associate Kirsty Grant, as well as tax partner Helen Buchanan, competition partner Rod Carlton, IP partner Chris Forsyth, real estate partner Mike Reid and finance partner Martin Hutchings.

Olswang guided Yattendon through the Iliffe sale, fielding corporate partner Mark Bertram and corporate associate Hannah Farrington as the lead advisers. Other members of the team were corporate associate Ben Taylor, tax partner Mark Joscelyne and tax barrister Robert Sartor, employment associate Joanna Adams, pensions associate Andrew Campbell and commercial associates Catherine Adam and Hemma Lad.

Trinity Mirror was advised by Norton Rose corporate partner Chris Pearson. Others in the team were associates Katherine Rowe and Anna Bugden, tax partner Louise Higginbottom and tax senior associate Andrew Roycroft.

Local World will be chaired by Montgomery, CEO of Mirror Group (now Trinity Mirror) between 1992 and 1999 and a former editor of the News of the World, while current Northcliffe CEO Steve Auckland will retain the role in the new group.

The purchase gives Local World more than 107 print titles and 60 websites, including more than 80 titles from DMGT and 36 from Iliffe News & Media. The parties said its combined weekly newspaper audience would be six million, with an additional seven million online users. Titles under the group include the Leicester Mercury and The Post in Bristol.

Background to this deal:

Freshfields is a longstanding adviser to DMGT, while Norton Rose is also an established adviser to Trinity Mirror, leading for the group on its acquisition of Guardian Media Group’s regional media business in 2010 (22 February 2010). Pearson was one of the lead partners on that deal and also advised the company earlier this year on a £110m revolving credit facility from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB.