Free newspaper entrepreneur Chris Bullivant is "withdrawing" the two titles he launched in Birmingham this year after losing the support of estate agents in the city, holdthefrontpage reports today.
But the war with Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail, may not be completely over. Bullivant in a parting shot said he would be complaining to the Office of Fair Trading about the pricing structure employed by his rivals.
Bullivant launched the Birmingham Press in April and followed in up with a sister title, the Birmingham Free Press in June. Trinity had hit back with a free version "lite" version of the Birmingham Post.
HTFP reports in a statement issued this afternoon, Bullivant admitted he was unable to compete with what he claimed was Trinity Mirror's latest offer to the estate agents. Trinity Mirror has always denied engaging in anti-competitive practices in Birmingham.
Bullivant's statement said: "It has been rumoured over recent weeks that the Birmingham Press and the Birmingham Free Press were due to close. The truth is that the CJB Company which publishes these Birmingham newspapers had secured the backing of our bankers to continue publishing providing we, in turn, secured the backing of the Birmingham estate agents to support the project.
"A meeting was held yesterday (Thursday) between representatives of BPM Media (Trinity Mirror) and the estate agents of Birmingham. The agents were offered an advertising package consisting of a page appearing in the Birmingham Mail and a page appearing in the Mail Extra, a total of 130,000 copies per week, full colour, for the sum of £250. The duration of this offer was until December 2011.
"I was approached by a number of the Birmingham estate agents this morning and asked if I could compete with the BPM Media price. I had to say that I could not – and I had to start the withdrawal of my newspapers from Birmingham as a result.
"I am complaining about the BPM Media pricing structure to the Office of Fair Trading, but if BPM Media prove to be right in their pricing, I fear there is no future for independent publishing in the UK.
"It would be interesting to know if Trinity Mirror has made similar offers to other groups of advertisers in the Midlands or in their Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle or Cardiff dailies; if not, why not?
"I can only imagine the delight of many pundits on hearing this news. The only way I can respond to what, I believe will be said, is to read Kipling’s 9th and 12th 'Ifs.'
"I introduced free newspapers into this country in 1970, and free dailies 1985. I firmly believe that the Press /Free Press formula will be the one that eventually replaces daily regional newspapers, I am extremely proud of the product.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank my excellent team who helped me develop the project over the last eight months and, to quote my 'north Brummie' editor, produce a bostin' newspaper."