LONDON (ACNI) – In a move that has taken many of its employees by surprise, the London publishing conglomerate dmg world media has sold its antiques trade newspaper in England and will soon consummate the sale of its U.S. antiques titles. Among the publications affected are the London-based Antiques Trade Gazette (ATG), and the U.S. publications AntiqueWeek, AntiqueWest and Auction Exchange.
On Oct. 6, all staff members at the Knightstown, Ind., production offices of dmg’s U.S. newspapers were asked to assemble for a meeting called by publisher Richard Lewis. At that meeting, Lewis advised employees that dmg’s three antiques-related titles produced in the Knightstown plant, as well as a fourth title published on site – the agricultural special interest weekly Farm World – were under contract to be sold. Lewis said the sale would be finalized in 30 to 45 days and that he would be staying on as publisher, although it is unclear whether it would be in a temporary or permanent capacity. At this point in time, all staff are expected to be retained.
An inside source expressed the opinion to Auction Central News that it is unlikely management will advise employees of the new buyer’s identity until the sale’s formalities have been completed. “I don’t think even upper management, with the exception of Richard Lewis, have been told who the buyer is,” the source said.
At the same meeting, Lewis announced that dmg had also sold its British antiques trade newspaper, the Antiques Trade Gazette. Lewis said two separate buyers were involved in the U.S. and U.K. transactions respectively, but declined to identify either of them.
Auction Central News can confirm that the new owner of Antiques Trade Gazette is a group consisting of four current members of ATG’s senior management. They are: Anne Somers (managing director), Mark Bridge (editor-in-chief), Simon Berti (sales director) and Pablo Luppino (finance director). According to statement published on ATG’s Web site, the purchase was made possible through financing obtained from HSBC (Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp.) and a partnership arrangement with Matrix Private Equity. No staffing changes are anticipated.
The ATG statement also quoted dmg’s chief operating officer Michael Franks as saying, in part, that antiques niche publishing – which he referred to as a “very specialized business” – is “no longer strategically aligned with [dmg’s] long-term objectives…”
In July, dmg sold back the Florida show known as ‘Palm Beach – America’s International Fine Art & Antiques Fair’ to its original owners, the Lester family. The show had been a dmg property for seven years, but in a July 28, 2008 press release issued by dmg, Franks commented that “dmg world media was ready to leave the high end antiques and fine art market in Palm Beach,” perhaps rendering a hint of what would follow with the company’s antiques publications.
While few, if any, of AntiqueWeek’s employees knew about the impending sale of the newspaper to an as-yet-unnamed buyer, some had felt uneasy about the future of antiques publishing. “Subscriptions have been down, especially for the Eastern edition; and the Western edition – AntiqueWest – just never took off,” a second inside source told Auction Central News.
Whether or not it applies to either of the aforementioned transactions, print publishing has seen dramatic declines in ad revenue in all industry sectors over the past few years. New York Times classified ads fell 30 percent overall in August alone, and on Sept. 30, the rival New York Sun ceased publication altogether.
While lack of new investment, a “dumbing down” of news content, and increased overhead and production costs have all played a role in the reversal of fortunes felt by so many print publications, these factors pale in comparison to the impact that has been wielded by the digital revolution and the appeal of its immediacy.
“It’s a changing world. A computer-literate global population is now in control, and they’re demanding immediate access to news and other content in an online format,” said Julian R. Ellison, CEO of both LiveAuctioneers [parent company of Auction Central News] and QM4G Media, publishers of digital magazines dealing with antiques, fine art and auctions. “There will always be a place for the printed word, but the tide has overwhelmingly turned to digital, and I can’t see it turning back.”
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