The Manchester Evening News (MEN) was founded in 1868 by Mitchell Henry as part of his campaign for election as an MP. Soon afterwards the paper was sold to Peter Allen and his brother-in-law John Edward Taylor, son of the founder of the Manchester Guardian.
From 1879 the Evening News shared the same offices as the Guardian in Manchester’s Cross Street. In 1924 it was purchased by John Scott, bringing the two titles under common ownership.
The MEN was a highly profitable enterprise, and brought significant financial benefits to the Manchester Guardian – as John Scott had intended. Its purchase marked the beginning of the company as a diversified organisation as opposed to a single newspaper. In 1972 that organisation was given the name Guardian and Manchester Evening News plc (GMEN), which became Guardian Media Group plc (GMG) in 1993 to reflect the increasing breadth of its assets.
The diversification that began with the acquisition of the MEN continued throughout the 20th century. In 1961 the company bought Manchester’s other evening paper, the Chronicle, which merged with the MEN two years later.
In 1974 GMEN acquired the Rochdale Advertiser series of newspapers, followed by the Stockport Advertiser series in 1977, a majority stake in the Surrey Advertiser series in 1979, the Accrington Observer in 1990 and Thames Valley Newspapers (owners of the Reading Evening Post) in 1994.
The company took a minority stake in Anglia Television in the late Sixties and bought 10% of Great Manchester Independent Radio Ltd in 1973. The company’s involvement with broadcast media developed over the years with the purchase of a minority and then controlling interest in the TV production company that became Endemol, a further expansion into radio businesses and a partnership in the newly formed GMTV. Its stakes in GMTV and GMG Endemol were sold in 2000.
The successful application for the South Wales Regional Radio Licence and subsequent launch of Real Radio Wales in 2000 marked the beginning of a significant push into commercial radio. This was followed, in 2002, by the launch of Real Radio in Scotland and Yorkshire, and the purchase of Jazz FM, which was renamed Smooth FM in 2005. Following the purchase of Century FM and Saga Radio in 2006, GMG Radio became the third largest commercial radio group in the UK.
In 1982 the company bought a controlling stake in NorthWest Automart (later NorthWest Autotrader), and by 1989 it controlled or had an interest in nine Auto Trader magazines. This collection of highly profitable businesses developed into today’s Trader Media Group, of which GMG became the sole owner in 2003. Autotrader.co.uk, which launched in 1996, is Europe’s largest automotive classified site. In 2007 GMG sold a minority stake in Trader Media Group to Apax Partners.
Financially Trader Media Group was the most significant addition to the company since the MEN, as its profits have been of great benefit to the Group over the years.
Equally significant though, was the purchase of the Observer – the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper – in 1993, the first time another national newspaper had joined the Guardian in the portfolio.
In 2008 GMG further diversified its portfolio through the acquisition of business-to-business media group Emap (now called Top Right Group) in a joint venture with Apax Partners, and by establishing an externally managed investment fund.
Two years later GMG sold its regional media business to Trinity Mirror, bringing to an end more than 80 years of common ownership of the Guardian and the MEN.
In 2012 GMG Radio Holdings was sold to Global Radio.