TPG Capital Asia head Joel Thickins has told the parliamentary inquiry into the future of journalism that the private equity firm would look to build and sell Fairfax Media in four to five years if it won the bid for the business.
This would be the private equity firm’s first takeover of a newspaper company. Mr Thickins did not believe this was a problem, saying that TPG would not have made a bid if it did not believe it could grow the business.
It did not say whether retaining or building upon current journalist numbers would be part of Fairfax’s growth.
Senator Nick Xenophon was particularly interested in whether Mr Thickins had been in private contact with Domain chief executive Antony Catalano. The TPG boss repeatedly refused to answer the question.
The firm is yet to conduct due diligence and is in competition with another bidder, Hellman and Friedman.
Mr Thickins said that it was TPG’s belief that the company’s mastheads and the Domain business were instrumental to each other. However, he was unable to commit to the future of the print product, stating that newspapers were in a structural global decline, although readers were still hungry for content.
The TPG head said that the firm would fulfil Fairfax’s current editorial charter and retain its commitment to independent journalism.
“We are owners, not managers,” Mr Thickens said.
The private equity firm will honour all employee entitlements and union agreements. It would also honour current redundancies decisions.
Senators Xenophon and Sam Dastyari expressed their concern in TPG’s commitment to journalism, citing the purchase, splitting and selling of Myer in 2006.
TPG made an initial non-binding bid for the Domain business and several metro mastheads on May 8, valuing the company at $2.5 billion. A revised offer was proposed a week later for the whole business at $2.76 billion.
On Wednesday, a competing bid of $3 billion was entered by American private equity firm Hellman & Friedman.
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