By Max Mason
Prominent fund manager Geoff Wilson is among the 35 investors who tipped money into the impact-investing consortium that bought the Australian Associated Press newswire, successfully saving it from closure.
The Wilson Asset Management founder confirmed to The Australian Financial Review he had been pitched to invest by consortium lead Nick Harrington, and was more than happy to chip in via an entity he personally owns 100 per cent of, not the listed investment company of which he is chairman.
“Media plays a crucial role in society. AAP contributes to the independence, objectivity and diversity in Australian journalism, and I am happy to be involved,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Wilson declined to comment on how much he put into the consortium.
Other investors who have come out publicly include Samuel Terry Asset Management managing director Fred Woollard and Australian Impact Investments managing director Kylie Charlton. The 35 investors come from five states in Australia and a range of industries, including some who have worked in media, finance and aviation.
Mr Harrington, a sustainable investment manager, and John McKinnon founded the impact investor consortium to buy the AAP newswire after the major shareholders, News Corp Australia and Nine, owner of the Financial Review, decided they would no longer subsidise the business to the tune of more than $10 million combined each year, as each looked for its own efficiencies and cost cutting amid the rapidly changing media environment.
AAP was due to close on June 26 if a buyer was not found. In May, Mr Harrington and Dr McKinnon enlisted former News Corp and Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh as the public face of the consortium.
In early June, the consortium reached a deal with Nine and News Corp to buy AAP, first revealed by the Financial Review. The deal was finalised last Monday and AAP 2.0 will begin its life on August 1.
The new AAP will be a slimmed-down version of the newswire, as it slashes its cost base to deal with the loss of funding from Nine and News Corp. The consortium has provided enough funds for a runway to help the newswire transition into a business that will become self-sustainable.
Last week, many of the newswire’s 180 staff found out they would not be part of the new AAP, which will have between 85 and 95 jobs, including 75 editorial roles, with more expected this week.