The decision by newspaper group PCM to be taken over by British venture capital group Apax in 2004 was unnecessary, wasted millions of euros and almost bankrupted the company, the company court in Amsterdam said on Monday.
The court agreed to investigate the role of Apax at PCM on the request of the journalists union NVJ, which was concerned at huge debts PCM was saddled with when Apax pulled out in early 2007.
Now owned by charitable foundations, PCM publishes three of the biggest newspapers in the Netherlands – Volkskrant, NRC and Trouw – and has a majority stake in the AD Media group.
Apax bought a majority stake in the company in 2004. At the time, the plan was to broaden the group’s operations into other publishing and media areas, double its turnover to €1bn and, eventually, go for a stock exchange listing.
But in the end, the takeover cost PCM hundreds of millions of euros and delivered “little or nothing positive”, the report said. Apax left PCM with debts of €400m and PCM was forced to sell its educational publishing company to keep its head above water because of high interest payments.
In particular, the report criticises the Foundation for Democracy and the Media, which sold a large chunk of its shares to Apax in 2004. The foundation, which is supposed to ensure the diversity of the Dutch press, ended up acting like a private equity company itself, the report says.
The foundation was a major shareholder in PCM before Apax came on board, and bought Apax out again in 2007.
The foundation says the report is one dimensional and should be seen in its historical context. At the time of the takeover, everyone supported it, the foundation said in a statement.
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