The Kent Messenger is no longer Kent owned.

The KM Group, publishers of the Kent Messenger that covers Hollingbourne has been sold to the Iliffe News and Media Limited, another owned media group which is based in Cambridge which is a subsidiary of Local World Limited. Local World Limited was created in 2012 from the Northcliffe Media group and Iliffe and now controls most of the newspapers in Kent as well as those in in other parts of England including the West Country and the Midlands. Details are at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_World

It appears that the major reason for the sale is the deficit in the final salary pension scheme which is a problem that has affected many other employers. Since the financial crash of 2008 interest rates have been very low which has meant that the return on gilts has been poor and these which affect annuity rates are are used by most pension actuaries to calculate the ability of pension schemes to meet their long term liabilities. Changes to the taxation arrangements of pension schemes introduced in 1997 when pension schemes were progressively restricted from claiming back the tax deducted on dividend income did not help.

The Downs Mail free newspaper is locally owned and has just celebrated twenty years of publication.

The announcement as of 28th April 2017 on the Iliffe News and Media website reads as follows:-

Iliffe Media Ltd acquires KM Media Group

Iliffe Media Ltd has acquired the entire shareholding of Kent’s independent publisher KM Media Group Ltd. KM Media Group 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.

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. 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.”

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

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

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.”

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)
For further information please contact:
Edward Iliffe: +44 (0) 1635 203912
David Fordham: 07836 232026
KM Group editorial director Ian Carter on 01227 475920/07808 632908