Media Lifeline: Manchester Evening News

The regional newspaper's recent sale to Trinity Mirror was not entirely surprising.

July 2008: For more than a century, the Manchester Evening News, like most regional newspapers, has functioned as a cash cow underpinning the fortunes of the group's flagship newspaper, The Guardian. Guardian Media Group's results for the 2007/8 financial year are buoyant but, with recession looming, it's clear the group has more faith in the ability of newer acquisitions such as Emap and the Trader Group to fulfil that insurance role.

March 2009: Some think MEN (now in GMG Regional Media) has been losing its way. In 2006, it was "part-paid, part-free" and its TV station, Channel M, hadn't made progress. In March 2009, the GMG chief executive, Carolyn McCall, announces job cuts at GMG Regional.

July 2009: GMG announces pre-tax losses of almost £90 million. The Guardian's newspapers division posts losses of £36.8 million; while GMG Regional Media experiences a year-on-year decline in operating profits from £14 million to £500,000, thanks to steep declines in property and recruitment advertising. McCall says that the group as a whole has been experiencing the "toughest trading seen for many years".

August 2009: The MEN is withdrawn from the Audit Bureau of Circulations because its part-free, part-paid distribution philosophy can no longer be accommodated by the rules, which expect distribution to follow "a consistent and regular pattern". Ruth Spratt, the managing director of MEN Media, reveals that the company will produce its own figures, although it wishes to retain a good relationship with the ABC.

February 2010: GMG reveals it's selling GMG Regional Media to Trinity Mirror for £7.4 million. Sly Bailey, the Trinity Mirror chief executive, praises the "journalistic heritage" of her acquisition; McCall says the deal secures the future of The Guardian.

Fast forward ...

July 2011: But MEN has the last laugh. When The Guardian's visionary plan to launch as a free commuter title doesn't deliver expected gains, and a subsequent GMG attempt to seek a merger with Channel 4 fails, Trinity Mirror steps in to take over the paper. For reasons of historical sentimentality, it says it plans to relocate the paper's editorial staff to Manchester, to be housed under the aegis of MEN Media at Scott Place.

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