City AM sold to ecommerce group THG

City AM is set to announce a sale today  (City A.M.)
City AM is set to announce a sale today (City A.M.)

Ecommerce business THG, best known for its protein and beauty brands, has bought London freesheet City AM, in a shock swoop that saves the newspaper from administration.

All of City AM’s 40 staff will join THG, while co-founder and longtime CEO Jens Torpe will retire.

THG’s existing business of protein and makeup is far from the world of newspapers, though it does run a series of newletters and founder Matthew Moulding has hit out at how the press covers his company in the past.

“We’ve long been reviewing opportunities in the disruptive media space but have waited for the right time and the right opportunity to make a digital step-change in adtech capabilities for Ingenuity,” Moulding said, referring to the firm’s digital brand building and e-commerce platform.

“City A.M. is one of London’s leading media platforms and we will ensure this remains the case with full editorial independence. This deal helps us reach a huge new audience, complements our successful content creation studios and digital media expertise,” Moulding said.

Earlier today, City AM managing director and co-founder Lawson Muncaster told the Standard that a deal was in the works to a buyer that was “young, British, rich and very bright”.

He also confirmed the business had been close to administration before finding a last-minute buyer, preparing to bring in insolvency experts BDO.

The free newspaper was founded in 2005 and its daily circulation was 67,714 copies as of January 2023. That makes it the ninth-most-circulated newspaper in the country.

When the sale was announced, Douglas McCabe, CEO and director of publishing and tech at Enders Analysis, told the Standard that the economics for City AM as a free print publication were “challenging”, and so a buyer would need a plan to elevate its online offering.

“Commuters — particularly commuters into the City — have remained stubbornly low post-pandemic, and the impressive corporate advertising that City AM carved out for itself in the late 2000s and early 2010s has also declined,” he said. “The unit costs of printing and distribution exploded in 2021 and 2022, and have not returned to pre-Ukraine levels.

“Any buyer would need a belief and vision for the brand as an online use-case. “