Stuff to NZME: Go stuff yourselves

A brutal column by Stuff Political Editor Luke Malpass on NZME’s clumsy attempt to force Nine to sell Stuff to them cheap. Extracts:

Let’s recap: after years of on-again off-again negotiations, Nine terminated talks with NZME last week over the price it was prepared to pay for Stuff (publisher of this website), and the approach to the political and regulatory battle that would have to be fought for the merger to go ahead.

NZME then inexplicably announced to the NZX on Monday morning that it was indeed buying Stuff for $1 and wanted an expedited Commerce Commission process — and a law change by the Government — to force the sale through by May 31. This took Nine, Stuff and the Government by surprise. NZME, like a desperate ex, appeared not to understand, or accept, that it had been broken up with.

Ouch.

Everyone has their price, but as a result of Monday’s amateurish shenanigans it is understood that Nine’s attitude is now that it will sell its Kiwi arm to anyone but NZME.

Double ouch.

NZME’s strategy, in turn, appears to have been to talk down Stuff and create enough uncertainty around the company’s future to bid down its value and create the impression in the minds of the public, advertisers and within the Government that the country’s most read news website is somehow circling the drain.

No wonder Nine is pissed. It is almost an act of commercial vandalism to announce you are buying Stuff for $1, as that is saying basically it is of no value and no one should buy it.

In the meantime, Stuff will troop onwards, Nine will try to wrap up a sale as soon as possible, and NZME will likely remain desperate and dateless in the chill winds of the NZX.

Triple ouch.

Radio NZ also reports that NZME is now taking Nine to court.

company NZME has applied to the High Court for an interim injunction against Nine Entertainment in Australia  – the owner of NZME’s main market rival Stuff. 

It is seeking to enforce an exclusivity arrangement and prevent Nine from negotiating with any other possible buyer. 

Are they deluded? What part of willing seller, willing buyer do they not understand? Do they think this will make it more likely they will get to buy Stuff?

Ben Thomas sums it up well.

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