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Business a.m. rescue bid thwarted by employment laws

LONDON - Business a.m., the Scottish daily financial newspaper, faces almost certain closure after a rescue package put together by financial publisher Angus MacDonald was scotched because of European employment legislation.

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Bonnier Business Press, the Swedish owner of Business a.m., said last week that it was to stop funding the paper and that it would close this week resulting in the loss of 125 jobs.

MacDonald, owner of private equity weekly newspaper Financial News, has been in negotiations with Bonnier for around three weeks and had planned to relaunch the paper in the new year as a weekly, with a narrowed focus on Scottish news and a reduced staff of 40.

The talks, which were at an advanced stage, came to an abrupt end, however, when MacDonald realised that transfer of undertakings protection of employment, or TUPE, laws meant that if he bought the paper, he would be responsible for all the staff he did not take on.

"Under European legislation we couldn't take on the assets without guaranteeing jobs to all its staff," MacDonald said.

This means that if one former member of staff could not get a job and won a settlement from MacDonald, it could trigger lawsuits from others.

Business a.m. had looked set to close at the end of last year, when the title's then editor and managing director John Penman and assistant managing director Anthony Jackson went to Stockholm to present a reworked 2002 budget and three-year business plan to the Bonnier press division board.

The plan worked and they won £8m in funding with the proviso that they cut 10% of the paper's work force and implement a restructuring plan.

Penman, who has since stepped aside to concentrate on the title's business development, was replaced as editor by deputy editor Richard Neville.

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