Australian Community Media and Seven West Media both contribute more than $1 million per year, while other businesses including Guardian Australia and Daily Mail Australia pay much less.
Mr Tonagh said the consortium wanted to preserve media diversity and protect journalism jobs.
“Although a number of the consortium members are philanthropists our common goal is to evolve and create an entity that will be self-sustainable as that is critical to ensuring the long term protection of the jobs, journalism and media diversity that is so important to all of us,” Mr Tonagh told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“Great journalism has clear value but while media is in this transition phase it has proven hard to realise that value. We believe that a reconfigured AAP, owned by an independent entity, can be sustainable in the longer term. It will require changes to commercial models just as News and Nine are adapting their own models.”
The AAP board, which entered due diligence with multiple parties that had expressed an interest in the business three weeks ago, will make a decision on whether any deal is viable before June.
The newswire announced plans for closure after 85 years in March. It puts its closure and redundancy process on hold after receiving a number of approaches from parties that were interested in acquiring the operation.
A former executive of Social Ventures Australia is involved in the consortium led by Mr Tonagh, but Social Ventures Australia also separately looked at the business and has since left discussions. Private banker Charbel Nader, also formerly boss of Antony Catalano’s Metro Media, was another bidder vying to save AAP, but has since ended discussions.
Talent manager Glenn Wheatley also emerged as a potential suitor in March.
Sources stressed no deal had been agreed to by the AAP board. The board, which has been working on the potential offers, has had difficulty agreeing to any deal. No bidder wants to buy the entire AAP newswire operation, which was not the initial intention of the board fielding inquiries and there are concerns that offers on the table will not provide a long-term viable solution for all staff. It is unclear whether any bid will succeed.
AAP chairman Campbell Reid said the offer was being considered. “We are treating the conversations as confidential but our primary concern remains for the AAP staff,” he said.
About 600 employees and AAP subscribers are waiting on a final decision.
Subscribers including the ABC, Daily Mail, Private Media, Guardian Australia, Australian Community Media and Verizon Media have previously discussed pooling resources and forming journalism partnerships but they are now waiting on the outcome of the process. News Corp is meanwhile planning to launch its own newswire service, which will provide content for mastheads including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun and external customers, next month.
AAP boss Bruce Davidson has previously confirmed plans to establish a private business with the company’s fact-checking division and parts of its editorial services arm Pagemasters.
Mr Davidson told staff AAP had been working with the consortium on the basis that the process was confidential. “Everyone should be aware that no transaction has yet occurred and that discussions and negotiations are continuing,” he said.
Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.