By Elenoa Baselala
THE Motibhai Group is the new owner of the Fiji Times Limited, ending months of speculations on the buyer of the 141-year-old company.
The announcement was made by News Limited which did not disclose the sale amount. The sale is subject to final regulatory approval with the expected closing date for sale on September 22.
“This purchase expresses our confidence in the future of Fiji. We will ensure that Fiji Times will operate as an independent unit within the Motibhai Group,” chairman and chief executive of the Motibhai Group, Mahendra Patel said.
Mr. Patel said his group had 80 years of business history in Fiji and expanded to new areas of business such as Fiji Foods and Proud Stores.
“The Times will be no exception,” he said. “We will take Fiji Times to a new level as we progress. We will ensure that the Fiji Times continues to be the preferred daily newspaper by the vast majority of Fiji’s population and live by the adage “the day is not complete until you have read the Fiji Times,” Mr. Patel said.
News Limited’s chairman and chief executive John Hartigan said the sale to the group represented the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers of the Fiji Times.
The Media Decree gave News Limited until September 28 to divest at least 90 per cent of its interest in the Fiji Times, the country’s leading newspaper group.
“We are reluctant sellers of the Fiji Times but I am delighted that we have been able to find a buyer who will take over the business as a going concern, respect its heritage and invest in its future,” Mr. Hartigan said.
“I have known Mahendra Patel for many years. His past contribution as a director of the Fiji Times has been invaluable.
“I am therefore very pleased that the Motibhai Group has decided to purchase the business.
“Motibhai will be very good custodians of the newspaper and as shareholders they will be committed to the future of the Fiji Times.
“I particularly want to thank the directors and staff of the Fiji Times for their hard work and loyalty and for their personal as well as professional commitment to the organization especially during the many changes and challenges of recent years. Motibhai is very fortuned to be inheriting such a dedicated and talented work force,” Mr. Haitian said.
Buyout for the people of Fiji
The Fiji Times-Motibhai combination is a formidable one, new chairman and owner Mahendra Motibhai Patel told staff of the newspaper yesterday.
Moved by News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan’s farewell speech to staff, Mr. Patel welcomed the staff of Fiji Times by addressing them as “my big family”.
Commenting on the buy, which was a complete diversion from his business interests, Mr. Patel said his family had been in business for 80 years and it would make a formidable combination with the 141-year old Fiji Times.
Mr. Patel assured all of job security, stressing the importance of teamwork, which had been the backbone of his company’s success in the country.
He assured staff members they would grow with the Fiji Times and the Motibhai Group.
“As a good corporate citizen of the country, the decision to acquire The Fiji Times was not purely for commercial reasons but also as a socio-economic commitment to the country and its people,” he said.
“This newspaper now operates as an independent unit under the leadership of Dallas Swinstead, publisher and managing director, a role he has enjoyed with distinction in the past”.
“Mr. Swinstead returns with a deep respect of Fiji, plus a clear and pragmatic understanding of the role and the values of a good newspaper to its community”.
“The group pays tribute to News Limited for leaving behind trained and dedicated staff in a high-quality operation that will enable us to serve this country through its premier newspaper, The Fiji Times”.
“Since the announcement of the sale, we have received numerous congratulations on our acquisition, both locally and internationally, and we are well aware of the heavy responsibility we carry to deliver the newspaper to truly live up to the adage “the day is not complete until you have read The Fiji Times”,” Mr. Patel said.