The Future is unclear for magazine publisher after GoCompare takeover

Laveta Brigham

Take the short-lived ownership of Uswitch by American media conglomerate Scripps. Having parted with more than £200m for the fledgling website in 2006, it racked up heavy losses and Scripps offloaded the business three years later for just a few million pounds. There is the unavoidable suspicion that the deal […]

Take the short-lived ownership of Uswitch by American media conglomerate Scripps.

Having parted with more than £200m for the fledgling website in 2006, it racked up heavy losses and Scripps offloaded the business three years later for just a few million pounds.

There is the unavoidable suspicion that the deal is a de facto retirement vehicle for GoCompare chairman Peter Wood, not helped by the fact that Byng-Thorne is also on the board of the company she is buying.

Though she has been excluded from the discussions in her capacity as a GoCompare independent director, the connection doesn’t look great.

Wood’s 29.6pc stake will earn him another £180m to add to an estimated £800m fortune, assembled from the sale of insurance brands Direct Line and Esure, which GoCompare was spun out of in 2016.

Meanwhile, further questions will be asked about Byng-Thorne’s seemingly insatiable appetite for deal-making at Future, and whether she needs to keep the acquisitions rolling in order for the company’s impressive growth to continue.

After all, it is only a year since the £140m takeover of TI Media, a deal Byng-Thorne celebrated by offloading £14.6m worth of shares just weeks later.

The ill-timed sale triggered an 8pc fall in Future’s share price as investors asked whether it was a sign that her faith was wavering.

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