Next Media Group yesterday confirmed it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Chinatrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffery Koo Jr (辜仲諒), who has agreed to purchase all the group’s media outlets for NT$17.5 billion (US$600 million).
According to the group’s official announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the group has agreed to sell the Chinese-language Apple Daily, Taiwan Sharp Daily and Next Magazine for NT$16 billion. Next TV, meanwhile, is being sold for NT$1.5 billion.
The announcement said that Next Media Group chairman Jimmy Lai (黎智英) had agreed to a three-year non-competition and non-solicitation undertaking, under which both he and his company would not own or control any company which engages in the print media or TV business in Taiwan and would not solicit employees of any print media or TV business in Taiwan.
The announcement further showed that the two parties aim to enter into a definitive agreement as well as all other necessary legal documentation on Nov. 17, adding that the two parties would complete the transaction before Dec. 17.
The group also terminated the MOU it signed with ERA Communications Inc’s Lien Tai-sheng (練台生).
Before the announcement yesterday, Lai apologized to the group’s employees on Tuesday and said that he was returning home to Hong Kong.
“I can’t hang on to it anymore,” Lai said in an interview with the Apple Daily. “This is life. You have to accept the result after you do your best and fail. Failure is also a process of life. I have nothing to regret.”
Meanwhile, Next Magazine revealed in an article yesterday that Koo edged out Lien and Fubon Financial Holding chairman Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠) and clinched the deal due to two key negotiations.
The story said that Lai decided to sell Next TV because it is costing about NT$300 million a month, which had caused the group to suffer severe financial losses. Both Tsai and Koo had requested more information about the group earlier this year when there were reports that Lai intended to sell Next TV.
The story confirmed that Tsai was the “third party” in the group’s announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last month, but that Lai was not satisfied with Tsai’s offer.
Tsai was said to have offered to buy the three print media outlets for NT$5 billion. Lai was said to have agreed to meet with Koo for the first time on Sept. 19, when the latter offered to buy the four media outlets at a bundled price of NT$15 billion. However, Lai was looking for NT$20 billion.
The two men then scheduled a second meeting on Monday this week and finalized a deal for NT$17.5 billion after five hours of negotiations. Prior to the second meeting, Koo had brought Formosa Plastics Group chairman William Wong (王文淵) and a Singapore-based private equity fund into his consortium.
Koo also promised to respect the professionalism of the editorial teams and not to lay off any staff when he took over.
The National Communications Commission (NCC) said it had yet to receive any application for a change of management or ownership from Next TV.
Huang Chin-yi (黃金益), director of the commission’s communications management department, said the deal would need to be reviewed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission because 45 percent of Next TV’s shares were to be owned by overseas investors. The Investment Commission would seek the opinion of the NCC, Huang said.
The application for a change to the television network’s operational plans and management would later be reviewed by the NCC, Huang said.
Huang added that the commission’s information showed that Koo is closely connected to the operation of Videoland TV Network (緯來電視), which owns a sports channel, a movie channel and a general entertainment channel, among others.
When asked if Koo’s background in the financial industry would be taken into consideration in the commission’s review, Huang said that depended on the content of the application.