'Racing Post' Sold; Improvements, Expansion Planned

The Racing Post, Great Britain’s daily racing paper, has been bought as expected by an Irish private equity investment firm, but the price of £170 million ($340 million) is less than owner Trinity Mirror had hoped for.

The recent turbulence on world financial markets drove the cost down from the £200 million ($400 million) asked for initially when the paper was put on the market at the end of 2006. FL Partners, through Stradbrook Acquisitions, is acquiring the paper, together with its Web site (www.racingpost.co.uk),  a number of weekly and annual racing publications, plus related publications for the betting industry.

Former Racing Post editor Alan Byrne, who has been advising FL Partners, was appointed chief executive and editor-in-chief Oct. 1 when the deal was announced. Byrne, 45, was editor of the Racing Post from November 1993 to January 2002, and since then has been a consultant to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and a director of the Irish Tote betting organization among other roles.

“Everyone in the racing, bloodstock, and betting industries relies on the Racing Post as the definitive source of data and quality editorial coverage,” Byrne said in a statement. “It is our job now to ensure that it meets and exceeds their expectations.”

Bruce Millington, previously in charge of the sports side of the paper, has been appointed the new editor according to “At The Races,” taking over from Chris Smith, who took up the post in 2002. Peter Crowley and Neill Hughes, who founded Dublin-based FL Partners in 2006, will be joint-chairmen of the Racing Post.

A statement from FL Partners said: “The new owners plan to invest significant resources developing the business, focusing in particular on additional online and multimedia services as well as expanding into new markets.”

The Racing Post was founded in 1986 by Sheikh Mohammed, and the ruler of Dubai still holds rights to the title after selling the paper for £1 in 1998 to Trinity Mirror, which owned the rival Sporting Life newspaper. Trinity Mirror, which closed down its own paper and published the Racing Post instead, owns three national newspapers headed by the Daily Mirror as well as regional titles.

“At Sheikh Mohammed’s suggestion, it has been agreed that donations totaling £10 million will be made by Trinity Mirror to four specified charities connected to the horse racing industry as a condition of the transfer of a license to use the Racing Post trademark,” Trinity Mirror said in a statement.

The Racing Post fought off the challenge from a new sports and racing paper, the Sportsman, in 2006, and faces another threat Oct. 20 when the Saturday-only Racing Ahead Weekend is due to publish for the first time at a cheaper cover price.

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