Has circulation rorting jeopardised the sale of the Hannan family’s FPC magazine stable to News Ltd?

The Sydney Morning Herald broke the news late last week and there were more claims in the Sun Herald gossip columns yesterday.

There has been nothing in News Ltd papers, although News’s spinner Greg Baxter claims the deal will go ahead and told today’s Financial Review that the deal ”was on track”.

Insiders say the accuracy of the FPC circulation figures has been called into question by the figures in last week’s circulation numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but there is also a strong suggestion that News Ltd caught on to the real situation just before the deal was sealed on 1 February.

News wanted the audit to be clean, thus the surprise decrease in most FPC mags in the latest circulation figures (out last Friday morning) and FPC men’s mags moving to CAB (Circulations Audit Board which is less rigorous) on masse (from the more rigorous Audit Bureau of Circulations).

There are claims these magazines sell half of what has been claimed through previous inflated audits.

News has apparently decided the deal isn’t worth the $170 million it had offered for a bunch of mags that were supposedly doing well. How about $80 million?

So where does that leave the deal?  Perhaps with BBC Worldwide, the under-bidder. And what will US magazine giant, Conde Nast, think of the new circulation figures for its Vogue titles, which are the cornerstone of FPC Magazines?

Peter Fray

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