Uncertain Future for Publisher Following Reported Battle of Wills?

An uncertain future appears to be facing the Dunfermline Press Group, publisher of numerous local newspapers in Scotland, after the sister of its late majority shareholder succeeded in preventing the sale of a property – as part of a wider dispute over which one of two wills is legitimate.

Say reports in The Herald and The Scotsman yesterday, Elizabeth Smyth – sister of the late Deirdre Romanes, who was also chief executive of the Dunfermline Press Group – has been successful in halting the sale of an Edinburgh New Town property.

Smyth is understood to be claiming that a will drawn up in 2008 was revised last year when Romanes was not in a fit state. The changes are said to have been drawn up just days before Romanes died of bone cancer in May.

The revised will is believed to have made provision for, says The Herald, “a trust with the wish that it would be used to secure the future prospects of the company”.

The Dunfermline Press Group owns, among other things, the Clyde & Forth Press. 

The earlier will appears to have been much more generous to Smyth. The revised one – believed to have been drawn up with the involvement of Romanes' former husband and two Dunfermline Press Group directors – is said to have set aside £1 million for Smyth and £3 million for the trust.

In court, an appeal was rejected that would have lifted a prohibition (secured by Smyth) on the sale of a property in Edinburgh's Heriot Row and another, in nearby Jamaica Street Lane. Lord Hardie is quoted, saying: “[Mrs Smyth] is apprehensive that, if the estate is distributed in terms of the 2010 will, there will be no funds available to satisfy the legacy to her after the executors have paid the deceased's debts, inheritance tax and the preferential legacy.”

Smyth's Court of Session claim to have the revised will set aside continues.

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