Next Media chairman to return to Taiwan

NO FURTHER PLANS::Next Media Group chairman Jimmy Lai said that his print businesses in Taiwan were profitable and he would not attempt to sell them again

By Lisa Wang and Camaron Kao  /  Staff reporters, with Bloomberg

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 - Page 1

Next Media Group (壹傳媒集團) chairman Jimmy Lai (黎智英) is to return to Taiwan to resume his position at the helm of the group’s local print media businesses, after the group decided to exclude its print businesses from an acquisition deal, local media reported yesterday.

High-ranking executives from the Chinese-language Apple Daily and Next Magazine have received calls from Lai, saying he would return to his Taipei office and not sell any of the group’s publications, the Chinese-language Business Today reported yesterday.

Next Media spokesman Chang Hsiu-cher (張修哲) could not be reached for comment as of press time last night.

Lai said he would not again attempt to sell his print businesses in Taiwan after failing to do so earlier this week, the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily reported yesterday.

Both Apple Daily and Next magazine’s Taiwan editions are profitable, Lai said in an interview published on the paper’s Hong Kong Web site.

In a separate interview posted on the paper’s Taiwanese Web site, he said that no job cuts are planned in the Taiwan office.

The sale by Next Media of its print businesses collapsed amid protests that the NT$16 billion (US$535 million) deal would silence a critical voice on China and would give the buyers too much control over the nation’s media.

Investors led by Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中), whose family owns Taiwan’s Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團), proposed to buy the Apple Daily, the Sharp Daily and Next Magazine from Next Media.

Next Media would still sell its television business in Taiwan, Lai said in the interview with the Apple Daily carried on the paper’s Web site in Taiwan.

Based on the NT$16 billion deal, Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑集團) chairman William Wong (王文淵) would acquire 34 percent of Next Media’s print assets, while Tsai would receive a 32 percent share and Chinatrust Charity Foundation (中信慈善基金會) chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) would take 20 percent. Lung Yen Life Service Corp (龍巖集團) chairman David Lee (李世聰) would hold 14 percent.

Want Want China Times Group executive vice president Wu Ken-cheng (吳根成) yesterday said that the group did not ask to buy less shares in Next Media. As the deadline had passed, the group would drop the deal, Wu said.

Next Media’s failure to sell its print businesses in Taiwan was a “demonstration of people power,” the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

“That showed us what people power can achieve,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said.

Additional reporting by Chris Wang