New Zealand media monolith NZME faces an uncertain future after an audacious strategy to co-opt rival Stuff failed in the High Court.
NZME, owner of the flagship NZ Herald as well as other print, radio and media entities, made a $1 bid to buy Stuff earlier this month, only to be rebuffed by owner Nine, the Australian media conglomerate.
Nine's move to then end an exclusive negotiating period saw NZME seek an injunction, only for the High Court to rule against them.
Rebuffed by both its takeover target and the court, NZME must lick its wounds and ponder a new strategy.
NZME has positioned itself as the best owner for Stuff in a tight media marketplace, under pressure from all corners due to shrinking advertising revenue and the arrival of Covid-19.
"NZME is disappointed but respects the court's decision," it said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.
"Should there be a credible buyer for Stuff who will protect jobs, newsrooms and mastheads then NZME believes this should be positive for New Zealand media.
"However, if this is not the case then NZME continues to believe that it would be best placed to sustain and support Stuff's mastheads, newsrooms and jobs in the interests of maintaining a robust fourth estate and plurality of voice in New Zealand."
In a company-wide email, Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said she was pleased by the court judgment and forwarded a message from owners Nine.
"We welcome today's decision and continue to operate Stuff and work for the best outcome for our audience, our people and the wider business," the Nine statement said.
Last month, NZME cut 200 positions and asked staff to take an across-the-board pay cut. Stuff, which owns newspapers and runs the country's most popular website, has also asked staff to take temporary pay cuts.
Commercial broadcaster Mediaworks has done the same as commercial media entities feel the pinch. Dozens of jobs were lost when New Zealand's biggest magazine publisher, Bauer, shut up shop without warning early last month.
Bauer is now attempting to sell those titles, including iconic local titles.
Jacinda Ardern's government, criticised for inaction to protect the sector, responded with a $50 million package of support late last month and has pledged further reform.