UPDATE 1600hrs: The real buyer of the FT has just been announced, and it's none of the touted suspects. The FT has in fact been sold to Japan's largest media company, Nikkei, for £844m. Well done to all concerned for creating such an effective smokescreen over the story this morning, and we look forward to news of a joint London-Tokyo FTSE-Nikkei market index in due course.
The news is out: the FT is up for sale. In a ‘statement re press speculation’, Pearson confirmed it was ‘in advanced discussions regarding the potential disposal of FT Group’. The admission comes after Bloomberg said last week it could be sold for up to £1bn.
Former chief executive Marjorie Scardino had said the pink paper would be sold ‘over my dead body,’ but her successor John Fallon, who took over two years ago, clearly has different ideas, as he focuses on Pearson’s education business.
The FT twitterati has some predictably amusing reactions.
Wait, I was just kidding Pearson— kadhim (@kadhimshubber) July 23, 2015
Morning conference going well. pic.twitter.com/mhF1Zaf8jp— David Sheppard (@OilSheppard) July 23, 2015
Just yelling and speculating in the newsroom.— Gavin Jackson (@GavinHJackson) July 23, 2015
Now the question on everyone’s lips is who is the mysterious ‘global, digital news company’ Reuters is reporting will get its mitts on the 171-year-old paper?
Certainly fits the ‘global’ bill, although it’s digitally some way behind bitter rival Bloomberg (more of which below). But wouldn’t it be wonderfully meta if it were the suitor, given ‘a spokesman for Thomson Reuters declined to comment’ for its own story?
Rupert Murdoch essentially bought The Wall Street Journal for the prestige alone and he could well be after another trophy for his cabinet. But the WSJ is the FT’s direct competitor and Murdoch has been focusing his energies more on the far more lucrative cable TV arms of his empire of late.
Michael Bloomberg has long been rumoured to have lusted after the FT, apparently trying a few times to prise it from Pearson’s paws. Interestingly, Bloomberg’s reporting hasn’t mentioned itself (maybe it doesn’t do meta like Reuters).
The hot favourite, though, is German media giant Axel Springer, which Reuters is now reporting to be ‘working on a deal for the paper’. Its boss Mathias Döpfner has been vigorously expanding the group into one of the biggest digital media companies in Europe, and the FT’s profitable paywall strategy wouldn’t go amiss in his empire.
For now, though, (although it may not be long before the rabbit’s fully out of the hat), it’s open season on #FTBuyerGuesses.
#FTBuyerGuesses round-up so far: BBG, Reuters, Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Alibaba, Xinhua, ZeroHedge, Daily Mail, Taylor Swift, Bezos, DJ, Axel S.— Robin Wigglesworth (@RobinWigg) July 23, 2015