Jimmy Lai proposes selling Next Magazine to Kenny Wee

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Media maverick Jimmy Lai (inset) and his firm Next Digital have proposed selling Next Magazine to Kenny Wee. Photo: Google Maps, Wikimedia Commons.

Jimmy Lai’s Next Digital Ltd (00282.HK) has proposed selling its flagship magazine titles in Hong Kong and Taiwan to businessman Kenny Wee, who has just disposed of Metro Daily, a free Hong Kong tabloid.

The board of Next Digital has accepted an offer to sell Next Magazine, which Lai founded 27 years ago, according to the company’s filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Next Digital will get over HK$320 million from the transaction from Wee, who will also inject over HK$180 million in the acquired magazine business.

The sale may help the struggling Next Digital, which saw its net loss expand to HK$416 million (US$53.3 million) in the financial year that ended on March 31 from HK$355 million a year ago, to resurrect from the money-losing print business and focus its resources on online news and Apple Daily.

In 2013, Wee bought Metro Daily, which is available at MTR stations, for HK$200 million. In 2015, Wee hired the editorial team of Sudden Weekly, a once profitable magazine which Next Digital decided to close after a string of losing quarters, and published e-Weekly since September 2015.

To prepare for his acquisition of Next Magazine, Wee said earlier this week he completed the sale of Metro Daily for HK$400 million to a local financial company, after receiving three bids from buyers, including some from outside Hong Kong.

Next Magazine is the flagship magazine that media maverick Jimmy Lai created in 1990. The political and entertainment gossip mag opened up a new era of paparazzi journalism, as well as in-depth critical reporting that inspired many rival publications over a booming era in the next two decades.

Shares of Next Digital were suspended this morning pending the release of a price-sensitive information. The shares were up 15.6% when they closed at 37 HK cents on Friday.

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