SYDNEY: The Australian Associated Press has been acquired by a consortium led by philanthropists, saving the newswire from closure at the 11th hour.
The deal was confirmed late Monday (Jun 29), three months after staff were told AAP would shutter as challenges in the media sector were exacerbated by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The investor consortium, which includes former News Corp chief Peter Tonagh, told staff in an email they shared "a common goal - a desire to protect media diversity in Australia".
"We feel the best way to do this is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the AAP Newswire and its provision of independent, quality journalism on issues that matter to all Australians," they wrote.
"We believe that this has never been more important to Australian society and were concerned about the impact that AAP's closure would have had on independent journalism, on jobs and on the viability of new entrants to the media space."
In March, major shareholders Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and broadcasting and newspaper group Nine Entertainment pulled out of the wire in a surprise decision that fuelled fears of further concentration of Australia's media.
But weeks later, several offers to buy the business put plans to close the business by Jun 26 on hold.
The newswire will continue to operate under the AAP brand, with Emma Cowdroy, currently the firm's top legal adviser, stepping in as CEO and Andrew Drummond continuing as editor.
However, about half the 180 existing jobs are expected to be lost, with the consortium saying it would run a smaller "sustainable" operation when the takeover is finalised on Jul 31.
The newswire will "focus on breaking news, politics, sport, major events and issues of public interest", it added.
AAP's rescue comes as the Australian media industry struggles with dwindling revenues. News Corp ceased printing more than 100 regional and local newspapers Monday, blaming a collapse in advertising made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.