M&G gets new US owner as Trevor Ncube passes on baton

Cape Town - SA weekly publication the Mail & Guardian announced on Tuesday afternoon that it had been acquired by the New York-based Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), and that its longtime publisher Trevor Ncube has left the company.

In an article on its website, the Mail & Guardian said that MDIF had become the majority shareholder of M&G Media Limited, while its current Chief Executive Officer Hoosain Karjieker had become a minority shareholder.

On its website MDIF describes itself as a non-profit organisation that “invests in independent media around the world providing the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies”.

“Timely, accurate, relevant information is critical to free societies. It enables fuller participation in public life, holds the powerful to account and protects the rights of the individual,” states the group’s website. 

MDIF states that it “invests in independent media companies in a range of countries where access to free and independent media is under threat”.

In a emailed statement to Fin24, the fund's CEO Harlan Mandel said the group invested in the Mail & Guardian as it is "a uniquely important media organisation with a great future”.

“Its independent reporting has a profound impact on the national debate and it is a beacon for independent journalism across the continent, and indeed the world,” he said. 

Indications that the Mail & Guardian was up for sale first surfaced in late November this year, when the Daily Maverick reported that the weekly newspaper was considering six to seven purchase offers.

The newspaper's editor Khadija Patel tweeted on Tuesday: "Our big big news is finally live. This is the best thing to happen to M&G. I’m excited about the future."

Passing the baton on 

Trevor Ncube, the newspaper’s former publisher, said in a media statement on Tuesday that he was “regrettably” no longer in a position to invest in the newspaper. 

“My partner for 14 years, the MDIF, under the leadership of Harlan Mandel have put forward a compelling case plan that will ensure the survival of the M&G well into the future,” he said. 

“Ownership of the M&G is equivalent to carrying a baton that gets passed on from generation to generation with just this underlying principle: Editorial independence is sacrosanct. I have often said my role over the past 25 years has been more of a custodian of a great South African asset, than an owner."

Ncube said he was pleased that Karjieker had been chosen as the "BEE partner of the M&G as it charts its new path". 

He added that, as part of its deal to acquire the Mail & Guardian, MDIF would exit Alpha Media Holdings, which includes his Zimbabwean media assets. 

Mandel, meanwhile, in a statement said that Ncube played a vital role in the history of M&G by demonstrating an "unwavering commitment to its editorial independence and high standards of journalism".

"He deserves enormous credit for successfully turning around a failing paper and charting a new strategy with new relevance for post-apartheid South Africa,” said Mandel. 

* Update : this article was updated on Friday December 12 at 16:40 to include comment sourced from MDIF. 

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