Guardian sells off the rest of Auto Trader to Apax Partners

GUARDIAN Media Group yesterday agreed to sell its remaining stake in Auto Trader publisher Trader Media Group to private equity firm Apax Partners.

The proposed sale of GMG’s 50.1 per cent stake follows the group’s 2007 disposal of a 49.9 per cent stake in Trader Media to Apax.

The value of the deal is said to be in the region of £600m to £700m, or £1.8bn including debt.

It is understood the parties took more than a year to agree on a price. Apax is said to be pleased with the terms, while the Guardian’s newspaper arm was keen to realise cash from the stake.

However, a Guardian insider told City A.M. the initiative came from Apax’s side and was not a “defensive panicked transaction” from GMG, which considered the certainty of yesterday’s deal to outweigh the possibility of future earnings from Trader.

Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust charity, posted pre-tax profit of £22.7m in the year to March 2013. Earnings from Trader Media and a stake in Top Right Group were partly offset by a £30.9m loss in the Guardian and Observer newspapers.

ADVISERS GUARDIAN MEDIA GROUP’S SALE OF TRADER GROUP

BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH

BANK of America Merrill Lynch has returned to advise the Guardian Media Group on selling the remainder of Trader Group, having worked with the media firm when it sold the first tranche to Apax Partners in 2007.

Philip Noblet was part of the original deal team six years ago, and is overseeing yesterday’s transaction as Bank of America’s chairman of mergers and acquisitions in EMEA.

Also on the deal for the bank are Umberto Parmeggiani and Marco Pugliese.

On the legal side of the deal, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised the Guardian. Simon Marchant, who co-heads Freshfields’ London based M&A business, banking partner Christopher Davis and corporate tax specialist Peter Clements led the team.

On Apax’s side of the deal, Harry Hampson of JP Morgan took charge. Hampson, a media banking expert, worked on News Corp’s attempt to take over BSkyB in 2010 as well as the sale of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group to News Corp the following year.

Magic circle law firm Allen & Overy provided legal support.

MICHAEL ALLEN

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