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Panpa Bulletin : June 2006
12 | PANPA BULLETIN June 2006 In a follow-up briefing to financial analysts, Kirk made it clear that as well as "looking at ways to optimise all the printing we do out of Mel- bourne", it was possible that some Sydney work could go to Wodonga. "We don't intend to make any in- vestments at this stage to upgrade the plant or increase capacity - it doesn't need it," he said. In a note to clients, Citigroup ana- lysts George Colman and Brian Han said strategically the purchase "again suggests that the company is hurry- ing to diversify away from its major metropolitan mastheads for very val- id cyclical and structural reasons". "Regional titles are less exposed to the impact of the internet, enjoy- ing much higher market penetration and higher local ad content," Col- man said. Chairman of the Fairfax group Ron Walker said The Border Mail was an ex- ceptional newspaper with more than a century of achievement in publishing. "We have the highest regard for the achievements of the Mott family as proprietors," he said. "Our proposed acquisition meets our investment criteria of advanc- ing Fairfax's strategic growth and in- creasing shareholder value. We look forward to the successful comple- tion of the transaction." Fairfax is entitled to a break fee of $2.25 million if, under certain cir- cumstances, the transaction does not proceed. The Border Mail publishes six days a week and employs more than 200 people. It has won four consecutive PANPA newspaper awards. CEO Tony Whiting, a PANPA direc- tor, told the Bulletin that staff and public reaction to the proposed sale of the paper had been positive, "pre- dominately due to the perception of Fairfax as a quality publisher". BMM shareholders are being of- fered either cash or shares in Fairfax to be issued at either $4.10 a share or a five per cent premium to the vol- ume weighted average price over 10 days, whichever is higher. It will be the second major acqui- sition by Fairfax since David Kirk joined the group and follows the $NZ700 million ($A625 million) pur- chase of the New Zealand online auction site Trade Me In 2005 BMM had pre-tax earnings of $13.1 million. The company's bal- ance sheet is debt-free. Oops, there goes another one The Mott family has owned newspapers in Al- bury for 116 of the 150 years since George Henry Mott launched the first paper in the border town in 1856. And now the end of the Mott dynasty in Albury seems to be at hand with John Fairfax Holdings Ltd making a generous bid for all the shares in the unlisted public company, the Border Morning Mail Ltd. Itwillconclude anothergrandchapterinthestory ofAustralia'slongest-survivingnewspaperdynasties. Two of these grey-whiskered dynasties have ceased in thepast three years(the Barnets, ofGawler, South Australia, 1863-2003, and the Harrises of Burnie, Tasmania, 1890-2003) and a third (the Westons, of Kiama, NSW, 1863-now)has amalgamatedits inter- ests with another family-owned printing enterprise since the start of this year. AtAlbury, GeorgeMott beganpublishingthe Bor- der Post in October 1856 after three years of working as ajournalistin Melbourne and in the gold-mining centres of Castlemaine and Beechworth. In the 150 years since, the Mott family has owned newspapers in various parts of Australia for all but seven years. The third, ninth and tenth Mott sons − Sydney Arthur Charnock Mott (1859-1929), Ham- ilton Charnock (H.C.) Mott (1871-1963) and Dec- imus Horace Mott (1873-1947) − joined the rush to the West Australian gold fields in the 1890s, starting newspapers in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. From Melbourne, shortly after Federation, Mott reminded his sons that Albury was a front-runner among the sites being considered for the national capital. Hamilton and Decimus returned to the town that their father helped pioneer, and estab- lished thedaily BorderMorning MailonOctober24, 1903. The Motts had some difficult times over the next two decades before dissolving their partnership in 1924. With 11 Motts working at the Mail, it was de- cided in 1924 that the brothers and their families should take separate paths. H.C. stayed, buying the interest in the Mail held by Decimus, who moved to Melbourne with his family and developed the Leader group of suburban newspapers. By the 1980s the Leader Group controlled more than 40 per cent of Melbourne's suburbans. The Herald andWeeklyTimesLtd bought Leaderfor$57 millionin1986andbecamepart ofNewsLtdthefol- lowing year. One branch of the Melbourne Motts continued its newspaper interests on a smaller scale when Walter Hilaire Mott acquired an interest in the East Gippsland Newspaper Group (JamesYeates & Sons Pty Ltd),publishers ofnewspapersin theBairnsdale area and, more recently, the Kilmore district. At the end of 1924 in Albury, H.C. Mott helped smooth the path for the future of the Mail by buy- ing and closing the afternoon newspaper, the Daily News, and incorporating it in the Mail from Janu- ary 1925. Mott continued in daily executive control of the Mail until 1932 when he appointed Gordon Davidson (1900-1960), his son-in-law, as the news- paper's first general manager. In 1946 three of H.C. Mott's sons returned from war service, ready for executive roles at the Mail. Davidson, only 46, stepped aside to allow Mel- bourne Mott (1915-2002) to become general man- ager. Clifton Mott (1908-2001) became the editor, andTennyson Mott (1906-2000), the chief of staff. Sometimes good intentions translate into bad results. In December 1949 H.C. Mott, then aged 77, made over his shares equally to his children in exchange for an annuity. One of the beneficiaries of H.C. Mott's action was Milton Mott, who, unlike his brothers and sisters, had never worked at the Mail. Milton (1904-61) had run away from home at the age of 14 and had eventually become the manager of a chemical company. When he returned to Al- bury in 1950, he was a skilled manager but he was ill and his marriage had broken down. At the Mail and he was soon appointed advertis- ing manager, but the family turmoil resulting from his return was intense. Melbourne, Clifton andTen- nyson Mott soon ceased their daily involvement in the running of the newspaper, with Melbourne buying a newsagency in Melbourne and the other two becoming farmers. Somehow, thefamilystillpulledtogether, rather than apart. After Milton Mott died on November 4, 1961, Gordon Dowling became the first non- family general manager, and Melbourne Mott became the first chairman of the board. Dowling served as general manager for 21 years until De- cember 1982 and his replacement, Gordon Bea- van, for nearly 14 years from February 1983 until October 1996. Tony Whiting was then appointed chief execu- tive officer and has continued in the position to this day. UnderWhiting, the Border Mail entered a new era of technology by purchasing a new home for its staff and production equipment, over the border in Wodonga, Vic. The company bought The Glasshouse and built a 2000 square metre press hall adjacent to the established building. The Border Mail shifted to its new site in June 1999, and the Premier of Victoria, then Jeff Ken- nett, officially opened the new printing facility on July 30. The company entered its second century with the establishment of a new subsidiary company, Border Mail Printing Pty Ltd -- a joint venture with Melbourne publishers, Star News Group (formerly South East Newspapers, based at Pakenham, and Independent News Group, based at Frankston. The Border Mail holds 51 per cent of the printing company, with the oth- er two partners holding 24.5 per cent each. End of a dynasty Rod Kirkpatrick concludes another grand chapter in the story of australia’s longest-surviving newspaper dynasties.