One by one, ACM owners Antony Catalano and Alex Waislitz are selling the real estate that underpinned their purchase of the former Rural Press business.
Having sold the plant and buildings in Ballarat, Victoria separately, and that in Wodonga, near the state border – as a complete operation – attention has turned to Canberra.
Catalano and Waislitz are reported to have got $6 million for the out-of-town Ballarat print site in May, having cleared some of the printing plant by auction.
The print site had been upgraded by then-owners Fairfax Media as part of a $42 million plan to shut and sell its showpiece Tullamarine site, but when News and Fairfax made their historic production-sharing agreement, Ballarat was left out, News reckoning it was too far out of town.
News has since built its own greenfield print site in Truganina, and current owners of The Age, Nine Entertainment have opted to print the Melbourne metro there.
In Wodonga, ACM resumed printing the (Albury) Border Mail last October, after suspending production and then selling the print centre to Shepparton-based McPherson Media. The site – anchored by a flexible five-tower Goss Uniliner S 4x1 (double-width, single circumference) pressline which was the first of its kind in the world – was originally a partnership between the Mott family's Border Mail newspaper and two other independent publishers.
Attention is still turned on ACM’s Canberra Times office in the ACT’s industrial suburb of Fyshwick. A new manroland Geoman press was installed there as part of a commitment by one-time owner Kerry Stokes, and was upgraded with UV curing to enable it to print glossy real estate magazines under Fairfax’s ownership. With Fairfax’s North Richmond and Beresfield (NSW) plants – both since closed – it played a role in plans to move production of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review from its expensive Chullora plant in Sydney.
Catalano and Waislitz are reported to have sold 14 properties for $20 million since acquiring ACM for $115 million in mid-2018, with 11 more remaining, estimated to fetch another $50 million. The Canberra Times office on the corner of Pirie and Newcastle streets is seen as the “crown jewel” of the portfolio.
Pictured: The Goss press in Wodonga during a visit by by SWUG members in 2009 (picture GXpress)