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Jewish Chronicle scrambles for cash amid newspaper turmoil

12:58 pm, 26th July 2018

Sky News has learnt that Jewish Chronicle Limited, the weekly newspaper’s publisher, has asked the professional services firm KPMG to conduct an urgent search for fresh financial backing.

The appointment of KPMG and search for new investment comes at a time when the JC’s coverage of the Labour Party’s increasingly bitter anti-Semitism row has raised the newspaper’s national profile.

This week, the JC and its rivals, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph, published identical editorials on their front pages warning that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Government would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”.

The JC, which has been continuously published since 1841 and is a mainstay of the UK’s 250,000-strong Jewish community, has made losses for the last two years.

It is projected to make a further loss of £465,000 in 2018, and has told prospective investors that new capital is required “to support a restructure”.

According to information circulated by KPMG, the newspaper has a weekly print circulation of approximately 20,000, with revenue in the year to June of £3.4m.

Of that figure, £1m was generated by newspaper circulation, with the remainder generated from advertising sales.

The search for new investors is understood to be being co-ordinated by Stephen Grabiner, a prominent financier who had a successful career at Apax Partners, the private equity firm.

Mr Grabiner, who also had a stint at the owner of the Daily Telegraph and joined the board of Times Newspapers in 2012, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

He was also a board member of the Kessler Foundation, the JC’s majority shareholder, until his appointment as the newspaper publisher’s chairman.

One headache facing the JC’s owner is the hole in its defined benefit pension scheme.

The deficit stood at £3.4m at the end of June 2017, according to the latest set of accounts filed at Companies House.

The accounts said the company had been “liaising with the scheme’s trustees and the Pensions Regulator over the future of the pension scheme”, with discussions pending about a deal to insure the pension obligations.

Along with most newspapers, the JC is adapting to a news industry which is increasingly shifting towards digital channels.

KPMG has told prospective investors that the newspaper’s website had 5m users in the last 12 months, 60% of whom were outside the UK.

It is understood to have sought initial proposals from third parties by the end of last week.

One potential investor in the JC is the Jewish News, which is backed by the wealthy property investor Leo Noe.

An insider said the Jewish News had approached KPMG to express an interest in injecting capital into the JC’s parent, although it was unclear whether such a move would be welcomed.

Calls to the JC were referred to Mr Grabiner.