by Mary Rauto and Elenoa Baselala
Yesterday marked a historic transaction as News Limited handed over the reins of the Fiji Times to the Motibhai Group. News Limited chairman John Hartigan said it was a day of regret and pride.
“Today is a very emotional day for me, for a lot of people in our country and elsewhere, we didn’t want to sell the paper,” Mr. Hartigan told staff of the Fiji Times in his farewell speech. “We supported it for the best part of its 141-year life". Motibhai Group chairman and new owner Mahendra Patel said it was a historic moment for the country.
“Fiji without the Fiji Times is unthinkable,” Mr. Patel said. “Motibhai’s acquisition is for the people of Fiji.” Mr. Hartigan declines to disclose the sale figure.
The Fiji Times was sold under the requirements of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010, which required that all media companies in Fiji be 90 per cent locally owned. News Ltd has sold the Fiji Times’ 100 per cent ownership to Motibhai Group.
Power of faith
"Faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake" by Martin Luther King.
By Margaret Wise
Time and again, over the past three months, I would flick open one of my desktop documents which contained a quote from self help author Alan Cohen.
With the uncertainty surrounding the workplace and pressured by mounting questions about the future of my profession (all fuelled by rumor and analytical reasoning), my mind would wander between the first and second half of the message.
The journalist in me would stare long and hard at the first two sentences which said something like this: “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.”
Fact is, the whole newsroom was perplexed and didn’t know what to do or whom to believe. The last three months has been a truly long drawn-out journey. Each time we thought we had hit rock bottom, a new report would surface and sink us lower. Phones were ringing and emails were flying back and forth.
Alas, this “date with death” had provoked shock, alarm and anxiety among both readers and co-workers. Not knowing where Fiji Times – the company – was headed was perhaps the worst part of the waiting game. Our company had become a large part of us, an identity for many.
Things just got worst when the messages of sympathy started to pour in. There were so many, it truly felt like someone had died. Then a figure was floated and the analysts concluded that no local could afford us. The cloud of despair hovered even lower.
Personally, I was initially sad about the misperception. News Limited is a foreign company, that’s for sure – but as far as editorial influence accusations were concerned, nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, even the editor has little control over the news gathering process.
The news is covered as it breaks – and as reported in by the general public and sources – to individual journalists. All those news tips sets the newsroom agenda for the day, and after discussion, coverage is determined by the heads of the newsroom in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa, according to manpower, resources and priority. Anyway, back to our “date with death”.
With kids going to school and with mortgages and bills to pay, pockets and hands were less open to spending. Staff started planning for the worst, as with passing of time, the prospect of change, in whatever form, was inevitable.
Crushed and with nowhere to turn to, helpless staff turned to faith. Prayers were shared to stir some hope and peace of mind. Messages of encouragement and inspiration took over the tone of emails. Oh, and what astounding power does faith have.
We now have a new local owner, the Motibhai Group. Jobs and families have been saved.
Our new publisher has arrived and yesterday he said he wanted us to fulfill our duty as a newspaper company. So personally, I am overjoyed that my role in our community is still cherished. Everyone is happy. They are stronger and up for the challenge.
Finally, I can stop splitting Cohen’s message and read it as it is. I therefore now share; “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.”
“There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”
Historic moment for Motibhai Group
The Motibhai Group is delighted to have been successful in their bid to acquire the Fiji Times Group and this is a historic moment for Fiji and the Motibhai Group.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motibhai Group, Mr. Mahendra Motibhai Patel said: “The long history of Fiji Times will always be respected and enhanced. With 141 years of Fiji Times and 80 years of business history of the Motibhai Group makes the combined Group a formidable combination.
“Over the years we have expanded into new areas of business and in each instance we have taken the new acquisition to a new level. Fiji Foods has been enhanced. The Prouds Stores since we bought in mid 80s now stands as a beacon of retail excellence. Our Airport Duty Free Store has received world acclamation. The joint venture with Colonial/SSP of Suva Central multi-storey Complex is one of the most outstanding developments in Suva CSD.”
“Motibhai Group has always recognized that people are its greatest asset. We believe very strongly that if you look after your people they will look after the customers and they in turn will look after the Company.” “The Fiji Times will grow as our country grows and we look forward to taking our country forward.”
“Over the recent past the Fiji Times Group has had ownership changes from Wilke Group to Herald Sun and from Herald Sun to News Limited and now to the Motibhai Group. In each instance the change has been seamless and we will ensure the same happens this time.
“In conclusion we want to say that Fiji Times is in good hands, will be innovative, progressive and continue to meet our readers’ expectations.”
News sells Fiji Times
NEWS Limited has reached agreement to sell Pacific Publications (Fiji) Limited, the parent company of the publisher of the Fiji Times to Fiji's Motibhai & Company Limited for an undisclosed sum.
The sale is subject to final regulatory approval in Fiji with the expected closing date for the sales on 22 September.
The chairman and chief executive officer of Motibhai & Company Limted is Mr. Mahendra Motibhai Patel CBE, a prominent Fijian businessman, who has previously served on the Board of the Fiji Times as a non-executive director.
News Limited's chairman and chief executive Mr. John Hartigan said the sale to Motbihai represented the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers of the Fiji Times.
From the past to the future
TEARS of joy and sadness, the end of an era and the dawn of another. Staffs of the Fiji Times Ltd in Suva were moved as News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan addressed them for the last time, stressing that his company would have stayed if they could.
Mr. Hartigan said News Ltd was privileged to have had stewardship of such a great newspaper. “You have been the eyes and ears for Fiji,” Mr. Hartigan said before adding that it was still the favored newspaper in the country.
Even with his busy schedule, Mr. Hartigan said he would not have missed the opportunity to be present at the official handover to the Motibhai Group. “What drove me the most to be here is you, I salute the staff for continuing to work in at times difficult situations,” he said.
He added that most forgot that News Ltd was just not a newspaper company but also an employer and was concerned with the livelihoods of people. Mr. Hartigan also passed on News Corporation owner, Rupert Murdoch’s thanks and appreciation to the staff of the Fiji Times for continuing to uphold the principles of News Limited.
“Thanks so much for the fighting spirit,” he said. “We are not walking away from Fiji just because we don’t have any business interests here.” He added the News Ltd would continue to beat the drum on freedom of the press. Mr. Hartigan also thanked Ross McDonald and his board members. He specially thanked the editor in chief, Netani Rika for his leadership of the editorial team.