Ringier steps back from selling majority share in Népszabadság

Private multinational publisher Ringier failed in its effort to sell its share of Hungary’s largest circulation daily newspaper, Népszabadság, to a group owned by the Socialist Party. Since no deal could be negotiated, Ringier keeps its 70.77 percent ownership of the paper, and the group called Free Press (Szabad Sajtó), which was established by the Socialist Party, retains its 27.69 percent share.

Ringier wants to sell its stake in Népszabadság so that it can merge with Axel Springer, another multinational publisher with print extensive media holdings in Hungary. According to HVG, the Media Council, which previously ruled against the merger, has informally said that the merger can only take place if Ringier sells its share in Népszabadság.

Once the official paper of the Hungarian Communist Party, Népszabadság since 1989 had gained a reputation as a left-leaning but reputable newspaper. While many liberals are eager to keep the paper going as a voice of the left, others have raised concerns that, if the Socialist Party had become majority owner, they would have re-politicized a newspaper that had worked hard to become more independent. As it currently operates, the paper has struggled to exist without necessary advertising revenue. Népszabadság had an operational loss of more than HUF 900 million in the past year.