3i exclusive for Trinity Mirror unit

The UK firm has reportedly beaten off competition for the newspaper publisher’s Irish titles after they were put up for sale at the end of July.

UK-listed private equity firm 3i is the frontrunner in the race to acquire a group of Irish newspaper titles put up for sale by UK publisher Trinity Mirror.

The firm has joined forces with David Montgomery, former chief executive of the Mirror Group, to launch a bid for the titles which were put up for sale in July. At the time, Trinity Mirror said the division, which comprises the Derry Journal and Century Press & Publishing businesses, was non-core to the group’s business operations.

In entering exclusive negotiations for the business, 3i has beaten off competition from a number of trade and financial buyers. According to The Guardian newspaper they include HgCapital, Kleinwort Capital and trade buyers including Independent News & Media, the Dublin-based publisher of the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph, and Archant, the privately owned publisher of the East Anglian Daily Times.

Kleinwort Capital have joined forces with Simon Robinson, former managing director of Mirror Group's Northern Ireland titles, while HgCapital has allied with David Palmer, former group chief executive at the Financial Times.

3i is thought to have offered around £43m for the business, just below the £45m asking price sought by Trinity Mirror. The deal represents 3i’s second partnership with David Montgomery, following an unsuccessful bid for a group of newspaper titles put up for sale last year by Scottish Media Group.

Both Trinity Mirror and 3i were unavailable for comment.