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Cambridge Independent publisher Iliffe Media acquires KM Media Group, including Kent Messenger Series

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Iliffe Media chairman Edward Iliffe
Iliffe Media chairman Edward Iliffe

The publisher of the Cambridge Independent, Iliffe Media Ltd, has acquired Kent independent publisher KM Media Group Ltd.

David Fordham
David Fordham

It publishes nine paid-for and four free newspapers including the Kent Messenger Series, the current Regional Press Awards Newspaper of the Year, and the Kentish Gazette, established in 1717.

The group publishes KentOnline.co.uk, with an audience of 2.4m unique monthly browsers.

In addition to print and online, the group operates the kmfm radio network, reaching 164,000 listeners each week, and will soon be broadcasting on television through a joint initiative with the University of Kent.

Its newspapers are among the UK’s biggest-selling weekly titles with a long established heritage dating back 300 years.

KM Media Group chairman Geraldine Allinson
KM Media Group chairman Geraldine Allinson

The deal represents the latest stage in the expansion of Iliffe Media, following the launch of the Cambridge Independent in 2016 and the acquisition of 13 titles from Johnston Press earlier this year.

David Fordham, former CEO of Iliffe News and Media, led the deal process on behalf of Iliffe Media Ltd, and said: “This acquisition represents the latest stage in the continued expansion of Iliffe Media and further demonstrates Edward Iliffe’s personal belief and commitment in the future of local media, across all formats.”

Mr Fordham has also been appointed as a non-executive director to the board of KM Media Group, with immediate effect.

In February, Iliffe Media purchased 13 titles from Johnston Press in East Anglia and the East Midlands. It also launched the paid-for Cambridge Independent in September 2016.

The acquired titles

The full list of titles, licences and broadcast entities involved in the deal are:

Kent Messenger Series

Medway Messenger

Kentish Gazette Series and Faversham News

Sittingbourne Messenger

Sittingbourne News Extra

Kentish Express Series

Folkestone and Hythe Express

Gravesend and Dartford Messenger

East Kent Mercury and Dover Mercury

Kent Business

Messenger Extra

Thanet Extra

Medway Extra

Canterbury Extra

KentOnline network (incorporating KentOnline, Kent Business, My Kent Family, Kent Homes, KentJobs, kmfm.co.uk)

kmfm Ashford

kmfm Canterbury

kmfm Maidstone

kmfm Medway

kmfm Shepway and White Cliffs

kmfm Thanet

kmfm West Kent

kmfm DAB

KMTV (50% share of licence jointly held with University of Kent)

Chairman Edward Iliffe said: “We very much look forward to working with the management team at the KM and continuing to evolve KM’s trusted brand and highly valued local media, through investing in journalism and producing quality publications, websites and broadcast content that will be engaging to readers, listeners, viewers and advertisers alike.”

Ricky Allan, managing director for Iliffe Media East, added: “The acquisition of KM Media Group further demonstrates Iliffe Media’s intention to deliver high quality, local news that is both useful and intelligent, delivered across multiple platforms to meet the needs of the community. Such values have been demonstrated since the Cambridge Independent launched in September 2016, and rewarded when it won Weekly Newspaper of the Year at the NewsAwards 2017.

“Our determination to engage with our communities has been further demonstrated with investments in the titles Iliffe Media acquired from Johnston Press at the start of 2017.”

Paul Brackley, editorial director for Iliffe Media, added: “This is an exciting time for the company. We are delighted to welcome our new colleagues to Iliffe Media and we look forward to working with them to continue serving our communities.”

KM Media Group chairman Geraldine Allinson said the deal with Iliffe would allow KM to continue to evolve and bring about much needed investment to maintain its independence and continue to serve the people of Kent with trusted news and other valued content. It also enables KM to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding its closed final salary pension scheme.

Geraldine, who will remain fully involved with KM Media Group, said: “The directors and I believe this deal represents the best possible outcome for our staff and customers.

“Although there is some personal sadness for me and my family that our pension liabilities have led us to this position, in Iliffe we have found a publisher which shares our belief in the importance of local media.

“The Iliffe family have extensive experience and heritage in local media, publishing and printing dating back to 1891, and have very similar values and ethos to us at KM. We believe they will be great custodians of our media portfolio here in Kent.”

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