ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday June 01, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 53

Nation changing hands

Business tycoon Sena Yaddehige, two months after selling out a 49 percent stake in his media business which includes The Nation and Rivera newspapers, wants to completely quit the business and is finalizing a deal with an unnamed buyer.

“We are having discussions. There is no deal as yet,” he told The Sunday Times yesterday by telephone from London, where he is mostly based. He declined to name the potential buyer. However, the parent company Richard Pieris Group (RPG)’s Chief Operations Officer Praveen Samarasinghe said talks were continuing with Sujith (Nissanka) Rajapaksa, who now holds 49 per cent of the shares.

The development came as Chrisantha Cooray, Chief Executive Officer of The Nation-Rivira group tendered his resignation. Dr. Yaddehige’s Richard Pieris Group (RPG) now has a 51 percent stake in Rivira Media Corp, publisher of the two Sunday newspapers.

Asked why he was quitting the newspaper business, he said: “We are facing a lot of losses and I can’t see the newspaper company making headway in the current environment. We gave the company many chances to turn-around.” In March, when the 49 percent stake was sold, Dr Yaddehige told this newspaper that he had no intention of selling the balance shares and denied speculation -- at that time – that Sujith Rajapakse was connected to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Dr. Yaddehige emerged with a bang in Sri Lanka’s corporate world some years ago when he acquired the Pieris family-held Richard Pieris Group -– famous for the Arpico brand – by gradually increasing his stake in the company.

Dr Yaddehige, who has spent most of his working life overseas and established a successful business in Britain, then set up his media business here in May 2006.

The Richard Peiris Group’s annual report for the 2006-07 financial year reflected the crisis in the media group. The report said Rivira Media Corporation incurred an operating loss ‘which is bound to improve with an increase in advertising revenue in the coming year.’

But Dr Yaddehige, who has consistently denied reports in the media that he would sell off loss-making businesses in the group, told this newspaper yesterday, “As a group (RPG) in consultations with the directors, we want to sell all loss-making operations.”

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