The real estate assets stretch across more than 25 printing plants and buildings. The Fyshwick office on the corner of Pirie and Newcastle Streets is estimated to be worth $20 million, sources close to the deal said.
However, Mr Catalano said a sale of the Fyshwick offices was an “option only” at this point.
The 2 hectare-plus site in south Canberra is zoned industrial mixed use, limiting it to shops and similar commercial uses, but the current lease is restricted to manufacturing, printing and publishing magazines and newspapers.
Sources close to the publishing business have described this lease arrangement as”prohibitive” but an ACT Government spokeswoman said a development application could be submitted for permission to use the site for other purposes.
This could make a sale compelling, with several sources intimately familiar with the deal saying its offices are under-utilised compared to the 500 staff that filled the building during its heyday. Recent gentrification in Fyshwick underpins the likelihood of big profits if the site is flipped.
“It used to be adult shops, greasy takeaways and a low-end car yard [in the area] … now it has higher-end retailers, high-end car dealerships and nice furniture stores,” a media industry source said.
The suburb has been home to the paper’s operations since 1964 when Arthur Shakespeare sold the business to John Fairfax and the printing facilities were moved to Fyshwick.
Former Canberra Times editor-in-chief Jack Waterford said the Fyshwick offices were initially used for printing purposes when the paper switched from “a tabloid-ish production to become a broadsheet” while the editorial and advertising was put together from Civic’s Mort Street.
When the inner city property market boomed, the inner city location was sold off and in 1987 Fyshwick became headquarters for the whole paper. The offices were redesigned by architects Geoff Butterworth and Partners in Australian colonial style.
A few months later, the paper was sold to Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited. Two years after that it sold to Kerry Stokes, the current chairman of Seven Group.
“Stokes bought new printing presses and also tarted up out the front,” Mr Waterhouse said. He said the print facilities were well-maintained and the “finest” available.
The boardroom and executive quarters were redesigned with plush interiors including new artworks and wooden panelling under Mr Stokes’ instruction. Most of the art has since been sold or given to charities for auction.
In 1998, the publication was sold to Rural Press and later became a Fairfax paper again when the regional publisher and metropolitan newspaper businesses merged in 2007. Nine merged with Fairfax in 2018.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.