Quebecor completes $414-million takeover of Osprey Media

Quebecor is the new owner of Osprey Media Income Fund, ending months of speculation about the future owner of Osprey MediaÔÇÖs 54 newspaper titles across Ontario. Assets include 29 Canadian Community Newspapers Association members plus 20 daily newspapers.

Osprey announced that it was engaging in a strategic restructuring process in March, 2007.

Quebecor was the first to bid on Osprey, on May 31, 2007, but they were quickly outbid by BC-based Black Press. The issue went to court with Quebecor alleging that Black Press did not have the legal right to bid. That case was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and Qubecor increased their original bid of $7.25 per share to $8.45 per share.

Many suspected that BC-based Black Press would put in another bid before the August 3, 2007, deadline. Until that deadline, Osprey maintained the right to terminate any agreementÔÇöwith the payment of a termination feeÔÇöin the event of a superior offer.

Now that the deadline has passed, Quebecor will assume ownership and the income fund will be delisted.

Quebecor is now the largest newspaper publisher in Canada and in a position to compete against Metroland Media Group, a subsidiary of Torstar Corp. that owns 100 newspapers in Ontario. Not only will the competition for readers heat up, but so will competition for ads and flyer distribution business.

The Osprey Media assets contain some of the more venerable dailies in the country, such and the Kingston Whig-Standard and the Peterborough Examiner. The company also has some of the most frequent winners in the CCNAÔÇÖs Better Newspapers Competition, such as the Haliburton County Echo.

Osprey CEO Michael Sifton told the Peterborough Examiner the sale was emotional for him.

“It’s very bittersweet, melancholy. I’m very proud of what we created as Osprey, proud of the association and the folks we have on board,” he said. “I can’t comment on what their [Quebecor Media’s] intentions are. I would hope that they would continue investing in journalistic excellence as Osprey has in the last few years.”

The sale is a pivotal point between rival corporate owners in Ontario. A buyout from Black PressÔÇöwhich is partially owned by Torstar Corp.ÔÇömight have cemented the Metroland chain. With Quebecor as owner, it remains unclear whether the gloves will come off. Five years ago, the two chains had conspired to buy out Osprey and divide the assets, but that deal soured and ultimately ended in the courtroom.