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Feature: Highs and lows of Emap

AT its height Emap – or the East Midland Allied Press – was a media empire employing thousands of people and controlling a vast range of local newspapers, magazines and radio stations.

AT its height Emap – or the East Midland Allied Press – was a media empire employing thousands of people and controlling a vast range of local newspapers, magazines and radio stations.Over its 61 year history, the company has been forced to tackle many crisises such as recession, the challenge of free newspapers and the emergence of new technology.

But in the end it was demands of the big institutional shareholders, forever wanting bigger returns for their investment in a highly challenging market, that has brought down the Emap empire.

Faced with changing faces at the top – the chief executive's slot was never filled after the departures of first Kevin Hand and then Tom Maloney – and a strategy that failed to bring satisfactory growth.

Indeed, last November the company announced a 16 per cent fall in profits.

Now the a large chunk of the business is poised for life under German ownership. Perhaps this mirrors the changing business environment, which has moved away from the local to the global.

Read more:

Feature: Emap: Story of the city publishing giant 1947 - 2008

The story of city publishing giant Emap and its sale to German publisher Bauer in January 2008.

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How they voted

Resolution 1: To authorise the disposal of Emap's consumer media business: Votes for: 110,441,374 – 97.95 per cent of vote, votes against: 566,236 – 0.50 per cent of vote, votes withheld: 1,745,341 – 1.55 per cent of vote.

Resolution 2: To authorise the disposal of Emap's Radio business

Votes for: 110,437,474 – 97.95 per cent of vote, votes against: 569,509 – 0.50 per cent of vote, votes withheld: 1,745,968 – 1.55 per cent of vote.

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Emap was a British-created company and owes it beginnings to the vision and energy of one local family – the Winfreys.

Sir Richard Winfrey's decision to buy the Spalding Guardian in 1847 was the catalyst which paved the way for the construction of this empire, which for 61 years was a defining feature of the Peterborough business scene, and which saw three generations of the Winfrey family at its helm. That connection was effectively brought to an end with the 50th anniversary of the company in 1997 with the retirement of Richard Winfrey as deputy chairman. However, he did remain as chairman of the company's pension fund trustees until the fund was sold to Paternoster last year.

In 1947, it was decided to create EMAP – a public company with a stock exchange quotation – with the merger of five regional newspapers which had all been started or nurtured to promote the Liberal political interest. The political focus of the business faded with the end of the war. But it was replaced with a new focus – to build a bigger and better business.

Just six years later, Emap was expanding its business operations into magazines with the founding of Angling times in 1953. It was quickly followed by MotorCycle News and then Garden News. By 1984, the firm had more than 50 magazines which were proving to be its largest centre of financial activity.

By 1980, the firm’s assets were worth 10 million and, along with the printing and publishing sections, Emap also ran its own travel agencies – Abbeygate Travel and Green Lane Travel and the chain of Readwell newsagents.

By that time, it also employed 1,800 people – up from 1,300 two years earlier – and over the decade had built its pre tax profits to 12 million, and had invested more than 10 million in new plant, equipment, buildings and publications.

Towards the close of the century, Emap employed an incredible 5,270 people, was publishing 100 UK consumer magazines, had moved into radio and was building up its business-to-business and trade exhibitions business.

However, by that time, the firm had already made dramatic changes that left many observers shaking their heads.

In the early 1990s, the firm moved into the French consumer magazines market, and in 1996 it announced the sale of its 96 newspapers, including The Evening Telegraph to Edinburgh-based Johnston Press.

And just a year later, the firm acquired the America-based Petersen Publishing, a position it had to later abandon just three years later.

The 21st century witnessed a mixture of purchases – for instance the web-based subscription fashion information business WGSN for 140 million in 2005 – and closures, such as The Face, J17, Internet Magazine and Here’s Health in 2004 and Smash Hits in 2006. Emap France was sold in 2006, and its Australia division went the following year.

In a bid to move Emap forward, the board announced a strategic review last year, and then invited bids for the company.

The move gave rise to talk of a shareholder rebellion and the return of former managing director Sir David Arculus, who vowed that he could raise the Emap share value to an impressive 12 per share. Its highest value in the last 12 months was 949per share.

But the revolt never materialised, and last friday shareholders overwhelmingly voted to sell the consumer and radio businesses to bauer.

There will be a second shareholders meeting later next month to vote on the sale of the remainder of the business, which includes the business-to-business and trade exhibitions sections, to Apax and the Guardian Media Group – no one is seriously expecting there to be a last minute reprieve.

 

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