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Independent staff want piece of the pie

Jul 26 2012 14:00 Sapa

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Johannesburg - Staff at Independent Newspapers are establishing a workers' trust in order to buy at least 25% of the local operations, a trustee said on Thursday.

"There is a great deal of support among staff for the idea," said Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois, one of the three provisional trustees.

"We've approached several possible funders and the results have been very encouraging."

Business Report editor Ann Crotty and Tuwani Gumani, general secretary of the Media Workers Association of South Africa, are also trustees.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is patron.

Independent Newspapers in South Africa is owned by troubled Irish group Independent News & Media (INM).

The group includes the Cape Times, Cape Argus, The Star, Pretoria News, The Mercury, and Business Report, among other titles.

INM announced earlier this month it would "explore a range of strategic options" for its South African operations.

The staff trust was first mooted among Independent staff a few years ago but "hit a wall" when the Irish owners refused to sell off the local operations, according to an introductory letter posted on the trust's website.

Dasnois, Crotty and Guwani explain in the letter they felt the time was right to revive the trust, which would be open to all staff and is supported by Mwasa.

"If there is to be a sale, we should make sure that journalists and other staff are in a position to get a stake of some sort so that we can have a say in the future of our newspapers and help to realise the great potential this company has," they say.

Attorneys were working on a trust deed, which would be posted on the site once it was ready.

The trust needs a financial backer for the bid, who would be repaid from dividends so that staff would not have to put up any money.

Once the loan was repaid, the shares would revert to the trust and its members.

However, the deal could take up to a year to come to fruition, according to the letter.

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