Stuff has 'really good relationship' with NZME despite its failed bid to buy the company - Sinead Boucher

Stuff and NZME still have a "really good relationship" despite recent tensions between the latter and Stuff's Australian owners during a turbulent period of failed sales negotiations

It was revealed on Monday that Stuff's CEO Sinead Boucher had purchased the company for $1 following the fallout of a terse back-and-forth between NZME and Stuff's former owner, Nine Entertainment. 

Earlier in May, NZME had applied to the Commerce Commission for permission to purchase Stuff - which owns, The Sunday Star-Times and The Press - for $1. However, Nine shot back that negotiations between the two had been terminated. NZME subsequently sought an interim injunction to resume the exclusive negotiation period between it and Nine, however the High Court refused to grant it. The company conceded its bid to buy Stuff shortly after and withdrew its application to the Commission. 

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, Boucher alluded that there are no hard feelings between Stuff and NZME - the owner of the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB - following the management buyout, expected to be completed by May 31.

"We've always had a really good relationship with NZME and the other media companies in New Zealand," she told host Ryan Bridge.

"We work [together] for the good of the industry and to collaborate on things behind the scenes."

Boucher said she had received a "lovely message" from NZME CEO Michael Boggs after the announcement, wishing the company "all the best" for their future endeavours.

"I expect we will be able to continue that good relationship in the future. NZME prints some of our papers, we share distribution, we're on the same industry bodies together - so I'm looking forward to continuing that," she said.

A plan is now underway to transition the ownership of Stuff to its employees, which will give staff a direct stake in the business as shareholders.

"Our owner Nine, in Australia, which bought our previous parent about 18 months ago, has long wanted to get out of the New Zealand market but we've been up for sale in one way or another for a long time," Boucher explained to Bridge.

"It got to the point where there was no obvious solution to that, so it was an opportunity to step in and say, 'would you be interested in an MBO, a management buyout?' That would bring the company back into New Zealand ownership and give us a chance to give our staff a direct stake in it. 

"They were very open to that and constructive in making it happen. They were able to achieve their aim too, of tidying up that loose end and getting on with their main business in Australia."

The transition of ownership is something Boucher is currently seeking advice on, particularly from other companies that have implemented the same structure. 

Although the buyout was a little more complex than simply opening up her wallet and "pulling out a coin", the sale will allow Stuff to take its "destiny" into its own hands - "rather than go through what has been a really long and protracted sales process", Boucher says.

She will be sitting down with her team to discuss the company's next moves, including the possibility of a private equity investor or partnership with other local companies.