Bennetts Group acquires Jasons Travel Media

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 11:56 09/12/2013
Sean Woodward
FAIRFAX NZ
Invercargill lawyer Sean Woodward.

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@devlincolle Tertiary textbook company, Bennetts Group, has acquired the assets of Jasons Travel Media from the receivers.

Invercargill-based Preston Russell Law partner and Southland Chamber of Commerce president Sean Woodward has been appointed director of the new company - Jasons (2013) Limited. He is also lawyer for the company.

The travel and accommodation guide publisher was purchased by the company, a member of the Bennetts Group, from receivers PPB Advisory, for an undisclosed sum.

The travel and accommodation guide publisher last month told its lenders to appoint a receiver because of the company's deteriorating financial position.

The family-owned Bennetts Group's acquisition means Jasons will continue to trade as a going concern, protecting the interests of tourism industry operators, customers and other stakeholders.  

The deal includes 62 magazine publications, the Jasons websites, and more than 4000 distribution points across New Zealand.

''The whole idea is to make sure the receivership does not affect the business, which it has not because it has all happened so quickly,'' Mr Woodward said.

Staff had been notified today and it would be business as usual.

The acquisition has been required to be completed under a tight timeframe, which meant Bennetts would be assessing the requirements of the business during the coming months and talking with customers and suppliers as soon as possible.

Southland Motel operators, tourists and other customers who had paid reservation money to Jasons should also not be left out of pocket, he said.

"These funds were held by Jasons in a separate trust account and are to be transferred to the new owner on the condition that they remain in a separate trust account.  The new Jasons will then pay those funds to the correct party as soon as possible."

Discussions had been held with stakeholder The Motel Association of New Zealand president, which had helped, he said.

Mr Woodward said he had no financial interest in the new Auckland-based company and is a director with Bennetts Group managing director Geoff Spong.

A long time friend of Mr Spong, he is a director of most of Spong's companies.

Mr Woodward said most of the professional services for the new business were based in Invercargill - lawyers, accounting and banking.

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''Geoff rang me on Thursday to say to was making an offer and it has moved quick from there,'' he said.

The first priority is ensuring business continuity for our customers and to ensure the impact on customers, suppliers and staff was minimised.

Gowing forward there were opportunities to grow the business but they were further down the track, he said.

All Jasons' existing 70 staff members were offered employment on existing terms and conditions.

One head office employee is not being offered employment. Bennetts Group planed to immediately focus on restoring the Jasons brand and operation, which had faced challenges since the global economic crisis and meeting the requirements of being a listed company.

Mr Spong said Jasons was an important part of New Zealand's tourism industry and delivered a high-quality range of publications.

It was synonymous with travel and tourism with more than 12 million domestic and international visitors accessing its travel information through print guides, mobile devices and the internet.

''I want to focus on the specific needs of customers by offering an unrivalled blend of print and online content.''

He was committed to recovering the trust, respect and confidence of staff and New Zealand's travel and tourism sector. 

"With tourism numbers now recovering following the global financial crisis, including strong growth from emerging markets, I'm confident Jasons has a bright future in New Zealand and the South Pacific.'' 

- The Southland Times

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