The Herald and Evening Times owners Newsquest quit Glasgow offices amid COVID-19 crisis

The publishers of the longest running national newspaper in the world, The Herald, are to quit their offices in Glasgow.

Staff at Newsquest Scotland have already begun the process of clearing out their desks at the property in Renfield Street.

It is understood the search for new premises in the city centre for some staff is ongoing while others will be relocated elsewhere.

The current lease costs the firm a seven-figure sum to rent.

The company, who also produce the city’s Glasgow Evening Times, the Herald on Sunday The National, Sunday National and Scottish Farmer among 200 brands, had been in lengthy negotiations with their current landlords over a potential new deal.

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But they have called a halt to talks amid the Cornavirus crisis which has hit the newspaper publishing industry hard.

The 53,330sq ft glass fronted offices – which come with 82 parking spaces – were bought in 2014 by Kames Capital’s Property Income Fund in a deal then worth £13.7million.

At the time of the deal, tenants Newsquest (Herald and Times) Ltd had a lease for the full property until 2030.

But crucially, it came with a breakpoint which could be triggered this year. They will now vacate the premises by May 24.

According to the Kames Capital website the annual lease for the building was in the region of £1,170,000 per annum

Senior Newsquest management had previously scouted out alternative hubs for some of the workers, including from the national titles.

But others will be relocated to other sites within the company portfolio including at their print centre in Cambuslang and offices in Clydebank.

A number of staff have already been furloughed.

It is unknown what, if any, implications the office move may have on staffing numbers once lockdown is lifted.

In a statement to staff, Managing Director Graham Morrison said: “I have called a halt to our protracted negotiations with the landlord for the extension of the lease for our Renfield Street property which expires in May 2020.

“Having taken cognisance of the situation, and the ongoing issues we have faced during the negotiations with the landlord,

“I have concluded that the terms on offer are no longer value for money, and in the meantime that we will fully utilise the available space that we have in both Cambuslang (Print Centre) and Clydebank.”

He added: “Whilst this is most definitely the right decision, I am still absolutely committed to having a significant presence in the city.

“We are actively seeking alternative premises in Glasgow and have already identified various options with commercial property partners.”

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Earlier this month trade magazine Press Gazette reported that across the UK, Newsquest had furlough around 10 percent of its 650 editorial staff and cutting wages, including those in Scotland.

JPI Media, owners of rivals The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News, said 350 staff were being furloughed with others having pay cuts enforced.

Industry leaders have already called on support from the Scottish and UK governments amid the crisis, which has seen a collapse in sales, advertising and events revenue.

Politicians including Culture secretary Oliver Dowden, responded by lobbying companies and the public to continue supporting UK media.

In an article for The Times, he said: “Newspapers are at heart of the British media and essential to its vibrant mix.

“People across the country are rising to the coronavirus challenge and I suggest we all add one small thing to our to-do list: buy a paper.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We are in discussion with the newspaper industry as we continue to explore how best to support businesses during this immensely challenging period.”

 



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