Daily Mail owner buys New Scientist magazine in £70m deal

The 65-year-old title is forecast to make £7m in profits this year

The publisher of the Daily Mail has acquired the renowned weekly science and technology magazine New Scientist in a £70m cash deal – the latest round of consolidation in the publishing sector.

The 65-year-old title, which is owned by a group of investors led by Sir Bernard Gray, is based in London, with offices in the US and Australia.

It is understood that Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which made an unsolicited approach to buy New Scientist and sealed the deal in just three weeks, has guaranteed the magazine’s editorial independence, ruling out staff cuts as well as the sharing of editorial content.

“This was totally unplanned,” said Gray. “Three weeks ago I was planning the strategic future of New Scientist. “This morning I’ve been for a walk around the village, grabbed a coffee, fielded a few calls congratulating me on the deal, and now I’m unemployed.”

The deal will mean a multimillion pound windfall for investors as well as a bumper pay day for a significant number of “directors and key management personnel”, from the magazine’s chief executive, Nina Wright, to its editor, Emily Wilson, who have shares as part of New Scientist’s business plan.

New Scientist, which employs about 80 staff, half of whom are in editorial roles, is forecast to make £7m in profits and more than £20m in revenues this year.

“New Scientist is a world-renowned publication loved by its readers, and we are both thrilled and proud to welcome it to the DMGT family,” said Lord Rothermere, the chairman of the Mail’s parent company. “We are very much looking forward to supporting their exciting plans to grow as the go-to publication for anyone interested in the scientific world around us.”

Gray’s consortium, which operates the business under New Scientist Group Limited, acquired the magazine four years ago from Relx, formerly known as Reed Elsevier, which had owned it since 1970. Relx retained a small stake through a preferential share arrangement. That has also sold to DMGT as part of the deal.

Financial filings name the directors as Gray, business partner Louise Rogers, Richard Lenane of the private equity firm Exponent, and Wright, who was made a director last February. The filings state that “directors and other key management personnel” have shares in the company.

Founded in 1956 for “all those interested in scientific discovery and its social consequences”, New Scientist has a weekly global circulation of 134,000 for its print and digital editions. Just over half are UK-based, and three-quarters are subscribers to the magazine, which has average weekly sales of about 84,000 copies, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The publisher has also expanded into events, with the New Scientist Live festival of science.

“The acquisition of New Scientist marks an exciting new addition to the DMGT portfolio and reflects our disciplined approach to acquisitions,” said Paul Zwillenberg, the chief executive of DMGT, which also owns the Metro and i newspaper titles. “It is a natural step in our consumer strategy to improve the quality of our revenues through building up subscriptions and digital capabilities.”

DMGT has been building its publishing portfolio with selected acquisitions in recent years, including the £49.6m deal to buy the i two years ago.

Gray previously bought Tes, formerly the Times Educational Supplement, from Rupert Murdoch’s News International (now News UK) in 2005 in a £235m deal backed by Exponent.

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In 2018 he was named executive chairman of Time Inc UK, owner of titles including Country Life and Woman’s Weekly, although he stepped down after six months.

The sale of New Scientist is the latest in a string of magazine deals. Last month, the New European, an anti-Brexit magazine founded after the EU referendum in 2016, was acquired by a consortium of investors including the former New York Times chief executive and ex-BBC director general Mark Thompson.

In December, JPI Media, the regional publisher that owns newspapers including the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, was acquired for only £10m.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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