Mark Allen Group (MAG) has announced its intention to acquire one of the prized jewels in publishing, the 85-year old weekly Farmers Weekly.
Reed Business Information Ltd (RBI), part of RELX, has agreed to sell the brand to MA Agriculture, a new company created by MAG to house Farmers Weekly.
The portfolio includes leading magazine brand Farmers Weekly, community website and online trading platforms on FWi.com, a growing events portfolio including the market leading industry Farmers Weekly Awards, newsletters and social media platforms supporting these publishing activities.
Farmers Weekly, the leading voice in farming, has been at the heart of the British farming industry since its launch in 1934. Today it has a circulation of nearly 42,000, with more than 26,000 subscribers.
RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. This transaction does not include the agricultural connectivity, workflow, data and analytics business Proagrica, and reflects RELX’s continuing strategic priority of focusing on its data and analytics business.
MAG, which employs 434 staff, has been rapidly expanding over the past decade. It currently boasts 100 magazines in 12 different sectors and organises up to 250 events, exhibitions and awards every year.
It has a turnover of £51 million and an EBITDA of £8.5 million. This will be its third acquisition in the past 12 months. In 2019 MAG acquired 12 magazines, mainly in aviation and auto, from UKi Media and Events, as well as The Engineer and its Subcon exhibition from Centaur Media.
Farmers Weekly will continue to be based at its Sutton offices, with 54 members of its staff transferring under TUPE.
The senior management team of publishing director and editor in chief Karl Schneider, sales director Dan Smith, marketing director Tony Hill and head of product Ed Morgan will all be joining the board of MA Agriculture.
Mark Allen, the founder and chairman of MAG, said: “This really is a dream come true for me. I grew up in Somerset and my father was a concrete manufacturer working daily with farmers, so I know farmers and Farmers Weekly well. When I worked for RBI many years ago Farmers Weekly was regarded as the very top of the publishing mountain both inside and outside the company. I can’t believe it is coming home so to speak. It represents the summit of our acquisition strategy. In future we will be looking to more organic growth, rather than acquisition, as our main focus.”
CEO Ben Allen added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the Mark Allen Group. Farmers Weekly will be an incredibly significant acquisition for the company. It further elevates our business and our position as one of the UK’s leading independent providers of quality, specialist content. Our immediate aim now is to build on the outstanding work that RBI have done in developing the brand and ensure that Farmers Weekly continues to get the care that it rightly deserves. We were enormously impressed by the senior management team and I greatly look forward to working with Karl and his colleagues.”
Karl Schneider, publishing director and editor-in-chief of Farmers Weekly, said: “I’m really excited about embarking on the next chapter of the Farmers Weekly story as part of the Mark Allen Group. RBI has been a good home for Farmers Weekly, but it’s great to be joining a company completely focused on and passionate about publishing and events. I know that this fertile environment will help accelerate our ambitious plans to extend Farmers Weekly’s lead as the UK’s top farming publication and events organiser.”
Graeme McCracken, CEO of Proagrica said: “This divestment reflects the strategic priority for Proagrica of focusing on its connectivity, workflow, data and analytics businesses. MAG is a great home for the publishing portfolio, with a strong personal connection with the market, and we are confident that it will provide the right focus for the future of the Farmers Weekly team and business. I’d like to personally thank all the staff for their exceptional dedication and commitment over the years, I’m immensely proud of Farmers Weekly’s achievements and we look forward to their continued success.”