UTUSAN Melayu (M) Bhd executive director Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir has apologised to all Malaysians for mistakes done when Utusan Malaysia was Umno’s official mouthpiece.
“To all Malaysians, please forgive us for our past mistakes. Give us a chance to continue our newspapers by supporting and buying them.
“We now pledge to give you balanced news as a newspaper that is committed to being the people’s voice,” he told Mingguan Malaysia today.
Utusan Malaysia has long been a mouthpiece for Umno, leading the charge in shaping the opinion of the Malay community to favour the party leadership’s perspective on issues.
Often times, it has been accused of playing up race and religious issues to shore up support for Umno, and to demonise the then opposition, particularly DAP.
Abd Aziz said he was willing to sell off his shares in the company to save it from its financial woes.
He is the biggest shareholder in Utusan Melayu.
In February, Umno sold 31.6% of its shares to Opulence Asia Sdn Bhd, a company owned by Abd Aziz for RM6.65 million.
Abd Aziz said Umno was also ready to dispose its shares in the company to save it.
“I am ready to sell off my shares to bring in new investors. Umno is ready to do the same,” he was quoted as saying.
“We have met with many potential investors. Some are interested but we will have to undertake an extreme retrenchment exercise.”
He said while many felt that the 80-year-old Utusan must be saved from folding, it remained that the company was in the red.
“This puts off investors as they fear Utusan cannot be competitive and has no working business model.”
He also urged Utusan staff to remain strong during its current difficulties.
He said the problems at the company were not short-term, adding that it cannot be resolved overnight.
“We have two choices. First, we admit defeat and close down, and by doing that, bury our 80-year-old legacy.
“We can sell off our assets and pay off our staff.
“Secondly, we continue fighting despite the shortfalls until we find light at the end of the tunnel. We will have to increase our sales and earn more advertisement revenue.”
Apart from shares held by Aziz, tycoon Syed Mokhtar Albukhary also has a 19.72% stake in the company, making him the second largest shareholder through his company, Nilam Setar Sdn Bhd.
Umno has 18.1% equity in the company.
Utusan has been in a financial crisis since last year, while it failed to meet salary payments from June this year.
It is also having difficulty paying 800 staff members who left under a voluntary separation scheme – a move management believed would help the company stay afloat.
Last week, the staff had picketed the company over the delay in payment of their salaries.