Rival bids have been submitted for Britain’s two major Jewish publications — the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News — which announced last week that they were going into liquidation as the coronavirus hit them financially.
The Kessler Foundation, a charitable trust that has owned the Jewish Chronicle since 1984, submitted an offer to liquidators earlier this week to acquire the assets of both publications and run them as a single publication.
The foundation announced that the merged paper would be run by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, while the Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard would step down and become an editor at large.
It promised further details and said both papers would continue publishing for now.
However, on Thursday, a rival bid was filed for the papers by a consortium of political strategists, bankers and broadcasters who vowed to invest millions of pounds over the next five years, the Financial Times reported.
The report said the consortium was being fronted by former Downing Street head of communications Robbie Gibb, biographer William Shawcross, former Labour MP John Woodcock, Rabbi Jonathan Hughes of Radlett United Synagogue, and prominent broadcasters John Ware and Jonathan Sacerdoti.
Jewish Chronicle editor Pollard announced Friday he was resigning from his position to support the rival bid. “I cannot in good faith lend my support to the Kessler Foundation’s bid to take the paper out of liquidation while there is such a compelling alternative on the table,” he said.
— Stephen Pollard (@stephenpollard) April 17, 2020
The Kessler foundation slammed the rival bid as a “shameful attempt to hijack the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper.”
Meanwhile, the consortium accused the Kessler foundation of underhanded actions.
“We are deeply disappointed with the Kessler Foundation’s conduct during this process, and consider it a cynical move to have put the paper into liquidation during the Jewish festival of Passover and over the bank holiday weekend, a move designed to rush through an outcome that maintains their control, but is clearly to the detriment of the paper and its creditors,” it said in a statement to the Financial Times.
Ahead of Passover both papers, which in February had announced plans for a merger, simultaneously announced they were going into liquidation but indicated vaguely that they would seek to continue to publish in some form in the future.
For now, their staff have been laid off, and sources at the Jewish Chronicle told the Guardian that staff were informed the parent company had run out of cash and could not continue trading.
Both publications said they would do their best to continue to publish for the next two or three weeks, and to update their websites.
After that, they said without elaboration, they would be working “to secure a future… after the liquidation.”
The Jewish Chronicle is the oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the world, having been founded in 1841.
The Jewish News, a Times of Israel partner, is a free newspaper established in 1997.
In February, the two titles announced “ambitious plans to merge their businesses to create one of the world’s leading community media brands.”
“The merger has been agreed in principle between the Jewish Chronicle’s owners, the Kessler Foundation, and the owners of the Jewish News, the Noé family,” they said at the time. However, they cautioned, “completion and the signing of a legal agreement is still dependent on necessary funds being raised to support the move.”