With 300 titles to its name, Newsquest is the second largest publisher of regional and local newspapers in the United Kingdom. Newsquest is based in Weybridge, Surrey and employs a total of more than 8,500 people across the UK. It also has a specialist arm, which publishes both commercial and business to business (B2B) titles, such as Insurance Times and Boxing News.
In 1996 Newsquest swapped its Yorkshire titles for Johnston Press’s Bury, Lancashire area titles and £9.25 million, sold some of its titles in the English Midlands to Midland Independent Newspapers and bought the Westminster Press local newspapers group for £12.3 million from Penguin Books-to-Financial Times publisher Pearson, doubling in size. The next year, the company floated on the London Stock Exchange realising a market capitalisation of £500 million. In 1998, Newsquest added the Sussex-based Contact-a-Car, the London Property Weekly titles, two titles in the North West of England, and three Review Group titles in Hertfordshire.
In 1999, The US Gannett media group's newly-formed UK subsidiary paid £922 million (about US $1.5 billion) for Newsquest and took on the company’s debt. In 2000, Gannett paid £525 million for Southampton-based News Communications and Media’s South Coast dailies and weeklies – and its Southernprint magazine printing division – to add to Newsquest’s portfolio. It also picked up the regional newspapers business – outside Manchester – of the Guardian Media Group, a takeover that the Competition Commission cleared as there was 'no overlap, in the companies' circulation areas.
In 2001, Newsquest bought Surrey and Sussex Publishing and Horley Publishing, publishers of Gatwick Life and Horley Life and the Dimbleby Newspaper Group’s nine Greater London weeklies, including the Richmond & Twickenham Times for a reported £8 million.
In 2003, Gannett UK paid £216 million for the Scottish Media Group’s three newspapers – Glasgow’s Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times– 11 specialist consumer and business-to-business magazines and an online advertising and content business. The competition Commission again inquired into this purchase but cleared it all the same. In 2005, Newsquest’s Exchange Enterprises division paid £50.25 million for Exchange & Mart and Auto Exchange from United Advertising Publications after the small ads weeklies' publisher's US parent, United Business Media, decided to concentrate on its 'core activities'. Newsquest also owns the formerly named Brentford Chiswick and Isleworth Times, which is now known as the Hounslow and Brentford Times.
Gannett had on 11 December 2006 said it had no plans to sell Newsquest, contradicting a story in the previous day's Sunday Express that claimed the media giant is carrying out a company review with the Credit Suisse investment bank, and could sell Newsquest for up to £1.5bn. Gannett had replied by saying: "There is no truth in the report. Newsquest is a valuable part of the Gannett company.
In early July 2007, Newsquest’s staff pension scheme was ‘£65 million in deficit’, a company memo to its employees had said, media analyst Roy Greenslade wrote in his 2 July 2007 blog at The Guardian’s website. Members of the company’s workforce, management could, the company had said, increase their contributions (from 6% to 10%) to keep the same final salary scheme; they could pay in less for an inferior version; they could opt for a ‘money purchase’ scheme; or ‘ditch’ their pension altogether.
The company’s US parent Gannett had on 18 June reported that revenues from its newspapers and broadcasting had fallen – but, the US press release said: ‘Newsquest experienced higher national advertising revenue’. It was “hardly a picture of a company suffering from poor health”, commented Greenslade.
On 25 July 2007, journalists at Newsquest’s former-SMG titles – Glasgow Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times – held a 24-hour strike to protest against compulsory redundancies and cuts of up to £3 million.
Newsquest’s Glasgow NUJ members went on strike again on August 3 and August 4 2007 hampering the Sunday Herald’s planned re-launch. Successful union action had already led to the reinstatement of the deputy Father (leader) of the Evening Times Chapel (office branch) Gordon Thomson on July 31, while a work-to-rule had caused the cancellation of digital training planned for the following week.
“Newsquest’s purchase of the Herald group was backed by assurances that they would maintain standards and not cut editorial budgets,” the NUJ quoted Cathy Peattie Scottish Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament for Falkirk East as saying. “The Competition Commission may have decided that too much time has passed for it to be able to do anything, but that doesn’t change the fact that Newsquest gave assurances via the commission to the people of Scotland, and those assurances now look worthless,” she added. She was not surprised staff had walked out.
“They have a long list of causes for dissatisfaction - redundancies, staffing shortages, poor working conditions and high stress levels. This is damaging the health of the workers and the health of the paper. Rather than discuss the problems, Newsquest has derecognised the NUJ,” Peattie continued.
Peattie had tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament expressing concerns about the Herald newspapers. It said Newsquest’s programme of job cuts would harm the papers' content and put their staffs at risk and added: ‘The Parliament notes that these developments are taking place despite increased profits and assurances given by Newsquest to the Competition Commission, and believes that this is to the detriment of the long term future of the titles and the Scottish newspaper industry.’
Newsquest on 8 August 2007 started offering users of its Greater London titles' websites downloadable supermarket coupons, which could be redeemed against at supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons for money off a range of goods from cranberry products to canned pet food. Newsquest’s regional digital and display manager Eddie Embleton was "very excited by the prospects that this new initiative presents...An online and offline campaign has been prepared to drive our readers and users directly to the appropriate coupon galleries, with the print element specifically aimed at driving traffic to our website and turning our readers into users’. The company hoped to ‘launch the gallery across the whole of the Newsquest network", the press release added.