The Takeover of Matichon and the Bangkok Post

[2014 note: By 2005, Thaksin had grown so powerful that newspapers hesitated mentioning him by name. His critics were hit with massive lawsuits, reporters critical of the regime were investigated for money laundering, and media outlets found advertising revenue drying up as businesses were pressured to boycott newspapers critical of the premier.

Suddenly, two prominent independent news sources found themselves the targets of takeover moves by Thaksin business proxies.

Most of the articles on this page, like many articles that detail the roots of the Thai political crisis (Thaksin's quest for absolute power), have vanished from online.

English-language articles that detail these events disappeared from the early Thai internet where link structures changed month to month and entire years of data were unceremoniously dumped to save space.

Thus, this page contains the complete text of some of the articles that no longer can be found elsewhere.]

Matichon thanks its supporters - Bangkok Post, September 20, 2005
Matichon Editorial, Sept 19 _ We would like to thank all our friends who stood by us during the past tumultuous week. We were touched by the sympathy and support of various organisations and fellow journalists who rallied against a giant entertainment company's bid to take over Matichon Plc and Post Publishing Plc.
The massive show of support made us realise that our adherence to journalistic excellence for almost three decades has not gone unnoticed. The public recognise our hard work and dedication. We will reciprocate by staying the course of righteousness and professionalism.
The incident also taught us a lesson. Some people say that we have no right to complain because the door was left open for the takeover bid. We would not have complained if our guest had walked through the front door.
Our neighbours rang the alarm bells when they saw our guest walk in through the back door. As he was already in the house, we could only ask him to leave, as he had not been invited.
We feel relieved now that the entertainment company has reduced its stake in Matichon Plc to just 20%. Our friends want the uninvited guest to leave the house completely. We understand their concern. And we assure them that Matichon will remain independent in its news coverage.
As puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, the identity of the person behind the takeover bid will be clearer for all to see. In fact, his name was uttered by many people who had followed the case from the very beginning. Big business close to political power-holders are seeking to enrich themselves and expand their empire. As their money cannot build up their credibility, they seek to muzzle the voice of the public. With your support, Matichon will stay the course of righteousness. The new partner may hold its 20% equity, but it cannot make us stray from the path that we have chosen.

ThaiSolidarity.org - September 19, 2005
Anti-takeover site for Matichon...

Jubilation at Matichon - September 17, 2005

Right: Front page of the September 17, 2005 issue of Matichon.
The 'Friends of Matichon' group express jubilation at the news of Grammy's giving up their takeover attempt.

MOVE ON MATICHON: Grammy's about-turn good for all - The Nation, September 17, 2005
Lower stake saves it from over-investment. GMM Media Plc's decision yesterday to drop its takeover bid for Matichon Plc not only pleased the public, but also saved the entertainment giant from over-investing by paying a higher tender-offer price. Under heavy pressure, GMMM backed away from its planned acquisition of Matichon by agreeing to reduce its 32.23-per-cent holding in the publisher to 20.23 per cent...

NEWSPAPER BID REACTION: Outrage 'a sign of maturity' - The Nation, September 17, 2005
...public won't accept meddling in media...

Post statement - Bangkok Post, September 17, 2005
[The Post finally comments on its impending takeover...]
After operating for almost 60 years, the Bangkok Post has won widespread recognition as an independent, reliable and respectable newspaper not just in Thailand but throughout the region. This achievement is mainly due to the commitment and dedication of its journalists in performing their duties in a professional and socially responsible manner, adhering to the principles of freedom of expression and editorial independence.
The newspaper also cherishes, adheres to and values the principle that it is responsible to the public and society in which it serves. So when it errs, it admits and corrects its mistakes accordingly.
Our sister publication, Post Today, which is just two years old, also adopts the same working principles and journalistic code of conduct. It has steadily built up a good reputation of being a bright newcomer with an increasing readership. This past week, the bid by GMM Media to take over Matichon and acquisition of a significant holding in Post Publishing Plc, has raised fears over the real motives behind this move and prompted a public uproar over the future of freedom of expression.
Doubts and questions have also been raised as to whether this move would eventually erode the editorial independence of the newspapers produced by both publishers.
The journalists of the Bangkok Post fully appreciate that as a publicly-listed company, Post Publishing comprises various groups of shareholders--large and small--while the task of charting policies and the future growth of the company lies in the hands of the Board of Directors and management.
But given the events of this past week, where doubts and concerns have been raised over the future of the Bangkok Post's editorial independence, the journalists and editors of this newspaper pledge to our readers--and to Thai society as a whole--that we will continue to adhere to our long-standing tradition of reporting and analysing news with honesty and in a fair and balanced manner.
And we pledge to defend to the utmost the principle of freedom of expression, a crucial lynchpin in a democratic society, no matter what pressures are brought to bear.

Thai humor: Crazy Paiboon - September 15, 2005

(Photo: Manager)

More on the media takeover from the Thai-language press - September 15, 2005
Matichon: Matichon and Bangkok Post readers pointed it is unusual that GMMM bids for the newspapers and believe that politics is behind it. They confirmed that they still believed in the two newspaper's editorial reputations.
Manager Online: In Pattani, media academics of Songkhla Nakarin University, Rangsit Campus criticized that it is not suitable that the big capitalist group aims to grab two media businesses. They will bring this case for an example to teach students that although something happens centrally, the repercussions will be local as well.


Thai humor: Buying Poojadkuan - September 14, 2005


(Photo: Manager)

A tale of two newspapers: Media takeover - September 15, 2005
Overall it seems the Post has very little to say about its own buyout, but has devoted much space to the story in general.
The Nation has two editorials today, one of which is an angry (or perhaps even a frustrated) call to action. The Post has a very cautious editorial that cannot even state for certain that the media takeover is politically motivated.
The Nation spends several paragraphs explaining hostile takeovers are unusual in Thai businesses while the Post starts out by saying they are a "normal practice" and then spends six paragraphs explaining Paiboon's position. The Nation merely says Paiboon "shows ignorance."


EDITORIAL: Hostile takeover threatens free press - The Nation, September 15, 2005
...More so if the individual or the company acting aggressively happens to have close ties with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a democratically elected leader who not only finds it unnecessary to hide his disdain for press freedom, but also may have been involved in attempts to intimidate the more outspoken journalists and critics.
...Newspapering as a business deals in truthful, timely and accurate information and honest opinions expressed without fear or favour, representing a key pillar supporting a healthy democracy. By logical extension, journalists must not be left alone to fight for media freedom. It is the duty of all fair-minded, freedom-loving members of the public to join in the fight to preserve the freedom of expression, without which democracy cannot survive.


COMMENT: No time to stand idle as predators lurk - The Nation, September 15, 2005
...His takeover move is a sham. It is an assault on Thai press freedom as a whole and is fast becoming a battle that advocates of media independence cannot afford to lose. Paiboon is striking at the heart of the industry, already on the back foot since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came to power...
Paiboon claims he is "nobody's medium", but he can't blame those who think his money-can-buy-anything attitude smacks of Thaksin, who is the reason why money politics has become the modus operandi in every sector in Thailand. Throughout his tenure, Thaksin has undermined the ability of the media to operate independently. Muzzling of the press has become a common practice.
...Journalists need the support of larger society. Press freedom is inseparable from societal well-being and the public's right of access to information and knowledge. When a big corporation with suspected backup from political bigwigs tries to gobble up a respected newspaper, the public and civil-society organisations must not stay idle...
Power grab or media expansion? - Bangkok Post, September 15, 2005
Buyouts, acquisitions and takeovers are normal practice for big corporations wanting to expand their businesses or to diversify into new business frontiers without the trouble of starting from scratch. Thus the attempt by GMM Media, a subsidiary of entertainment giant GMM Grammy, to buy into Matichon Plc, publisher of Matichon, Khao Sod and Prachachart newspapers and Post Publishing Plc, publisher of the Bangkok Post and Post Today dailies, is not abnormal practice, at least on the surface of it...
They have every right to be concerned that these Constitution-mandated principles are in danger of being compromised by GMM Media's audacious move, which cannot simply be interpreted as otherwise...
Post Publishing is open to synergy or new ideas from new players, be it GMM Media or other investors, to improve content for the good of their readers and the public, provided that the basic principles of free expression and editorial independence are not compromised...
Suffice to say that it will require more than mere words from Mr Paiboon for us to believe that GMM Media's latest venture into the print media is purely business--and nothing else.

More A tale of two newspapers


More on the takeover of Matichon and the Post - September 15, 2005

Matichon - September 14, 2005: Matichon group repeats the wish to maintain justice, neutrality and independence to present news, although GMMM are buying a stake. Meanwhile, the GMMM chairperson said he bid because he liked the newspaper and Matichon is a quality media and has secure incomes. He ask for not to speculated about the deal and confirmed that no political motive is behind is.

Manager - September 14, 2005: TRT supports Ar Koo [nickname of Paiboon] to buy media and said it is about business only. Meanwhile Poomtham revealed that at the founding time of TRT, somebody offered Thaksin to take over some of the newspaper. Thaksin said it was not appropriate and worth to invest in because media is really professional and difficult to control and if there is interference, the editorial staff will move and set up under a new name. So the idea was canceled.

Thairath - September 14, 2005: Ar Koo [nickname of Paiboon] opened his mind by that he did not buy Matichon for anyone else! Don’ t worry be happy. He will not interfere in the editorial team.

Komchadluek - September 14, 2005: Matichon fights Ar Koo [nickname of Paiboon] and finds the way to prevent the takeover. It will launch a statement to make stand for society and will get people to dress in black on September 14 at the Thai Journalist Association. The opposition party members and senators said there must be an ulterior motive behind the takeover.

A disturbing parallel in the Philippines media - The Nation, September 15, 2005
To veterans of the daily newspaper business in Southeast Asia, the Matichon and Bangkok Post takeover drama has an apparent historic parallel in the case of the Manila Times, the Philippines' oldest newspaper...

THE MOVE FOR MATICHON: 'Disloyal' Wanich axed - The Nation, September 15, 2005
SeaWrite Award winner suspected of being mole in Paiboon's takeover bid. A SeaWrite Award winner has had his columns dropped from all Matichon publications after he was suspected of being GMM Media's mole in its takeover bid for the company, a source said yesterday...

MATICHON TAKEOVER: Grammy faces boycott as social outrage grows - The Nation, September 15, 2005

Paiboon: Expansion in print gives Grammy new channels - Post, Matichon are `good investments' - Bangkok Post, September 14, 2005
...Editorial operations at both Matichon and Post would be unaffected by the GMMM investments, Mr Paiboon added.
"I won't interfere or cause anyone pain at either company, and have no plans to change anything. Both are already strong as it is,'' he said with a smile.
According to documents filed with securities regulators, GMMM would seek to appoint representatives to the boards and executive boards of both companies...

Matichon vows to fight - Media freedom further compromised, say opposition MPs, senators and democracy advocates - Bangkok Post, September 14, 2005
...GMM Grammy boss Paiboon Damrongchaitham insisted yesterday that the investments were not political and that GMM Media would not interfere in editorial operations at Post Publishing or Matichon.
He also denied Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was behind the move...
Newspapers would be under the thumb of businesses with majority shares, and which were tied to the government.
"This is particularly true for Matichon and Bangkok Post which produce outstanding investigative reports on the government. I think newspapers are the last hope for the free flow of information. But now, that independence is insidiously being jeopardised,'' he said...


'New owner hurting the local media' - The Nation, September 14, 2005

Reporters: We can't be bought - The Nation, September 14, 2005

Suthikiati vowed he would never sell out - The Nation, September 14, 2005
...From the beginning of the Thaksin government, Post Publishing has been under pressure from the government and has changed editors three times in as many years. Recently, the company asked two senior political editors to leave after an erroneous report about cracks in a runway at the new airport.
...Suthikiati held talks with Paiboon over the buy-out at the GMM Grammy Building but refused to relinquish his stake. But other family members were not so sentimental and were ready to sell.Suthikiati's half-brother Suthichai helped persuade other family members to sell their stakes to Paiboon.
Suthikiati is currently in the US with his son, Passankorn, who is entering university.
Things will be different when Suthikiati returns home next Monday.


STOPPAGE TIME: Things may never be the same for local media - The Nation, September 14, 2005
...Pessimists simply don't believe a nice guy like Grammy boss Paiboon Damrongchaitham has turned into a highly ambitious and arrogant takeover monster overnight. Is he doing this to expand and "complete" his own business?
Why does he want to spend nearly Bt3 billion to buy two potentially rebellious newsrooms?
Is he doing it for someone else? Does national politics play a big part here?...

Veteran Khanchai has limited options - The Nation, September 14, 2005
A few days ago, Khanchai Boonpan could have been wondering how to bow out of the respected media organisation he built and pass the torch to a new generation of journalists.
But after an audacious takeover bid by a man who apparently knows nothing about journalism, the founder of Matichon newspaper must now mount a desperate counterattack to keep his legacy alive...
It was generally thought that Paiboon was either acting as a proxy for a powerful political figure who wants greater control of the Thai press or he has political ambitions himself...


Thai media takeover - September 13, 2005
Press reactions to the takeover of the Bangkok Post and Matichon by businesses close to the government.

Komchadluek: Grammy sends GMM Media to buy stake in printing by buying both the Post and Matichon. The big order was found to cost 860 million baht. Meanwhile, academics worried that Grammy follows the Shinawatra group and is trying to grab media. People (should read many opinions in media and) should not be forced to consume media.

Thairath: Ar Koo [nickname of Paiboon Dumrongchaitham] of GMMM grabs Post-Matichon. He corners a big stake in his hand. He will tell more information on September 13. For the news that claims Ar Koo bids as a representative of Thaksin, AR Koo said Thaksin is not a child so why would he have to bid instead of the PM.

Matichon: GMMM bought Matichon-Post stake. The company approved a 2200 million baht bridging loan with the Thai Commercial Bank to pad the plan of media-printing investment.

Manager: Grammy grabs Matichon, Post. AR Koo-Grammy shook the newspaper realm by taking over Matichon with a 32.23% stake while he also has Bangkok Post at 23.60% with a 2000 million baht loan from Thai Commercial Bank. Matichon editorial staff worried that the direction of news will be changed and the Post team believed that politicians are behind this. Meanwhile the Juengrungroengkit group holds a big stake of almost 25% in The Nation Group and has representatives on the board [controlled by Suriya Juengrungroengkit, TRT minister and tycoon who owns Thai Summit Group--supplier to Toyota in Thailand].

Thai journalists deplore media takeovers by vested interests - The Nation, September 13, 2005
..."They are a new species of owners who do not care about press freedom. They believe they bought the media for the sake of the national interest," commented Dr Jade Donavanik, media law professor from Siam University, referring to the stock acquisition of Matichon daily and the Bangkok Post by the GMM Grammy Group...
Kavi Chongkittavorn, the Nation Group's assistant group editor, said the concentration of new ownership of the mainstream media is part of long-term "strategic planning" by vested interest groups and politicians to ensure that there would not be any media scrutiny on pivotal issues such as mega-projects in the future...


Grammy buying into Post, Matichon - Strategic holdings worth B2.67bn - Bangkok Post, September 13, 2005
...''Both Post and Matichon are among the strongest companies in the industry, and both are in solid financial position,'' said Aekpittaya Iemkongack, an assistant managing director at BFIT Securities.
''The Bangkok Post is one of the leading English-language newspapers, while Matichon is a leading Thai-language paper. Both papers are well regarded for their straightforward, neutral reporting. It's unlikely any buyer would change their news policies.''


Media tycoon pledges non-interferenc in acquired newspapers - TNA, September 13, 2005
...The media tycoon told a press conference here that the takeover plans were aimed at expanding his business networks to become "GMM Multimedia", and promised that he would not interfer in the two newspapers' editorial and operational policies.
"I won't interfer to change their editorial and operational policies, but allow them to run their businesses as usual. I want them to continue to present news reports based on facts. The two newspapers have successfully gained public credible confidence and trust and I won't be fool to damage it," he said...

Earlier: GMM chases Post Publishing stake - The Nation, September 8, 2005
[This is a fascinating article.]
GMM Grammy Plc chairman Paiboon Damrongchaitham has approached the Chirathivat family about buying the clan's entire stake in Post Publishing Plc, a senior executive of the Chirathivat-controlled Central Group has confirmed...
Rumours that Post was a take-over target hit the market shortly after the Bangkok Post, the English-language daily newspaper which is Post Publishing's flagship business, ran and later retracted a report on runway cracks at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. It also followed Paiboon's announcement that GMM wanted to diversify into the newspaper business to solidify its income structure.
According to the source, following Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT)'s filing of a criminal lawsuit against the Bangkok Post over the runway report, the older brothers of the family, including Suthichai and Suthitham, wanted to distance Central Group from any conflicts between the newspaper and the government. AOT has not yet filed a Bt1-billion civil lawsuit it threatened the paper with earlier.
"They [the Chirathivats] also fear that this could affect the State Railway of Thailand's process of renewing the contract for the lease of the land on which Central Lat Phrao is located," the source said.
The lease to Central Group expires in 2007.



Media takeover - September 13, 2005
One of Thaksin's personal friends, who earlier tried to orchestrate the Liverpool football club buyout, has now apparently led the takeover of Matichon, perhaps the most visible and credible newspaper in the Kingdom. The newspaper often takes a critical tone towards the government.
Also being bought up is the Bangkok Post, a prominent English-language newspaper that has sometimes been a willing target of government pressure tactics. The inescapable conclusion is that more major Thai media sources are coming under the influence of Thai Rak Thai-allied businesses.

TWIN TAKEOVER MOVE: Grammy bids for Matichon, Bangkok Post
- The Nation, September 12 , 2005
...According to the stock market, South China Morning Post Publishers holds 20.28 per cent in Post Publishing Plc, while Nijaporn Joranachitt holds 9.74 per cent. The remaining shares are owned by members of the Chirathivat family, as well as Bangkok Bank Plc.
The identity of shareholders who agreed to sell their shares in Post Publishing to Grammy Media is not certain yet. One source said it was possible that the Italian-Thai Group, Bangkok Bank and other foreign shareholders could have sold out.
Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, said: "Grammy might be buying shares in the media firms on behalf of other capitalist groups, who do not want to make themselves known to the public for fear of a backlash..."


Post's 59.69 million shares sold in big lot - The Nation, September 12 , 2005
...Local newspapers last year reported that Paiboon Damrongchaitham, GMM Grammy's chairman, is negotiating to buy 28 per cent stake in Post Publishing Plc from Chirathivat Family.
Paiboon today denied to give any comments on the issue.
According to the stock market, South China Morning Post Publishers holds 20.28 per cent in Post Publishing Plc, while Nijaporn Joranachitt holds 9.74 per cent. The remaining owned by members of the Chirathivat Family as well as Bangkok Bank Plc.

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