30 October 2014

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Split Trinity Mirror in two says pundit as Sly Bailey steps down

Trinity Mirror has announced that its chief executive Sly Bailey is to stand down at the end of the year after almost a decade at the helm of the newspaper publisher.

Ms Bailey, who had faced a potential revolt by shareholders against her pay package, gave notice of her departure to the company’s board today.

By December she will have served almost 10 years with the company having led it through some of the most turbulent economic times in the history of the publishing industry.

Her departure triggered calls from veteran media pundit and former Mirror editor Roy Greenslade for Trinity’s national and regional divisions to be demerged.

In a statement issued last night, the group said that despite the challenging environment, she had ensured the company had continued to deliver ‘robust profits.’

Chairman Sir Ian Gibson said “The company and the board are grateful to Sly for her immense contribution and leadership over an extended period and wish her well for the future.”

Ms Bailey said “For the past ten years I have had the privilege of being CEO of Trinity Mirror plc, a fascinating and all consuming role. Newspapers are a business like no other.

“Now I feel the time has come to hand over to someone else to take up the challenge and for me to seek new challenges and opportunities elsewhere. My immediate priority is to continue to run the business, to deliver the best possible performance for 2012.”

Sir Ian will begin the search for a new chief executive immediately.

In a blog post today, Roy said whoever takes over should consider de-merging the group’s national division from its regional titles, which include the Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News, Birmingham Mail and Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

“Bailey never got to grips with the central contradiction of the company she inherited. There is no synergy between national newspapers and regional/local newspapers,” he writes.

“If the current Trinity board under its new chairman, David Grigson, really want to do something valuable, they should consider splitting Trinity Mirror in two.

“They should seek an owner for the national titles – possibly the three in London, if not the pair in Scotland – who is prepared to spend the necessary funds to give them one last chance at revival.

“The nationals division generates 60pc of group revenue and 79.4pc of its profit….the Mirror, given the right ownership – given love – could still offer proper competition to The Sun, especially in view of its own current problems.”

However while Roy’s proposal envisages Trinity selling the Mirror, he appears to suggest it should retain its regional titles.

“As for Trinity’s regional business, it is difficult to imagine a willing buyer just now, or at least one prepared to offer a decent sum,” he adds.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, also called for a “fresh start” at Trinity Mirror following Ms Bailey’s departure.

“Sly Bailey has presided over ten years of cuts and decline.  She has cut the number of employees by almost a half and slashed budgets in some of the most important newspaper titles in the regions,” she said.

“There is a desperate need for a fresh start with imaginative corporate leadership committed to working in partnership with the workforce to build a growing business.

“The NUJ hopes the group’s incoming board will reject the cuts-dominated agenda that has been the characteristic of the Bailey years and show faith in quality journalism.”

16 Comments

  1. Spanner

    “a fascinating and all consuming role. Newspapers are a business like no other”

    What about “I am please to have made a significant contribution to the wealth and security of shareholder pensioners and moved the business firmly into the digital age” – NOT

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  2. oh dear

    Bye bye Sly.

    Enjoy your millions you really, really deserve them for all your hard work in helping create a strong future for your newspapers.

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  3. Tog

    …she had ensured the company had continued to deliver ‘robust profits.’

    At a cost of ever-decreasing revenue, advertising in free-fall, newspapers closing, jobs lost, plummeting quality, the lack of a real digital strategy…

    I’m sure the shareholders are delighted but if this is continued by her successor the company will shrink to the point where it’s unsustainable as a large organisation.

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  4. Curious

    She’s eviscerated a noble empire and somehow got fat on it. It’s reward for failure.
    The share price has plummeted from £7+ to under 20p on her watch – before ‘recovering’ to an unimpressive 40-70p.
    Why is the board happy with her? The shareholders aren’t.

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  5. GladImOutOfIt

    “I have delivered robust profits”. Never mind that that has been at the expense of hundreds of jobs, editorial quality, service to the community, etc etc.
    Unfortunately, the law dictates that for PLCs shareholder value is the be-all and end-all of a company’s existence; customers, the community and the employees don’t come into it. I guess this doesn’t matter so much if you make pink plastic widgets that go into dolls, or run a huge chain of tanning salons, but newspapers?

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  6. GDK

    Farewell Sly. Will anybody miss her? As the NUJ was saying years ago, she’s a one trick pony. Whatever issue arises, her only strategy is to slash costs. TM needs someone with a genuine feel for newspapers – and who understands what the company should do in the internet age. She had neither of those qualities.

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  7. House Rules

    You people do realise she doesn’t set her own targets right? TM is a PLC so her targets are set by the board.

    So if she gets big bonuses then she is obviously hitting them.

    Save some of your anger for the board.

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  8. Andy T

    Trinity Mirror does operate as many different businesses, all of which in the end report in to one of two MDs – a regionals one and a nationals one. So they are different businesses, they just share some things, like HR and IT. Good to see Greenslade on the money as ever.

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  9. Cherrywonder

    I recall when she first started at TM and was asked how her performance should be measured against that of her predecessor’s.

    She said: “Judge me on the share price.”

    No sooner had the words left her lips than the share price fell off a cliff where it has remained gasping on the rocks ever since.

    Yet she somehow stayed in post for nearly a decade.

    Weird, isn’t it?

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  10. Runaway Ed

    I watched the company shrink and fall out of the main FTSE as the share price went over the cliff, desks empty as each round of redundancies culled newsrooms, offices and papers vanish, talented commercial people leave, the slow and clunky route to online, and yet there was still one miracle in it all.
    Somehow Sly Bailey always picked up a salary plus bonus in line with a thriving blue chip market leader. She wasn’t alone, apparently magical finance chiefs had similar glitter beyond my humble understanding.
    I once worked out that you could get more than 60 qualified regional journalists plus all their ‘on costs’ (equipment/ facilities, exes, employers NI etc) for the price of one Sly. It wasn’t the excel chart they wanted of course, but oh… how I marvelled at the mystery.
    Where did it all go wrong?

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  11. Merganser

    Did she decide to jump . . or was she pushed? Perhaps someone had a quiet word in her ear.

    Talking of the board, is it not time for a clean sweep? I don’t think any of them have much of a grip . At least one does not hold a single share in the company – not much confidence there.

    The current chairman, Sir Ian Gibson, is a very nice fellow but he should have demanded much more of Sly.

    Wonder what she’ll do as from next year – perhaps write her memoirs.

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  12. the red postman

    As long as the board is fixated on delivering ‘robust profits,’ then the company is going nowhere, whoever is in charge.
    A company combining national and regional papers and with an incoherent digital strategy was never going to work. Splitting nationals and regionals makes sense but is anyone going to want to buy the emasculated remains of the latter?

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  13. Spanner

    A prediction !

    DMGT and Trinity combine their Regional operations into the newspaper equivalent of a toxic bank !

    Report this comment

  14. wilber

    the board should follow her… not one ‘newspaper’ person on it. All bloody bean counters!
    Shameful

    Report this comment

  15. Milli Tant

    ”A prediction !
    DMGT and Trinity combine their Regional operations into the newspaper equivalent of a toxic bank !”

    Quotes like that may no be as far-fancied they once were. And if that doesn’t put shivers down your spines nothing will.

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  16. Last one out - switch off the light

    Any prospective candidates from our contacts?!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’ve got one and in my opinion he is one of the very best in the business.
    He knows regionals inside out and has a really feel for new ideas and hates to cut staff numbers!!!!!!!!!!!! He is the one who told his group execs to trade out of a position if possible – not to just make cuts.
    He is ex Northcliffe (when it was a great company) can anyone guess who it is?
    Maybe we could give TM a hit list. Would they listen – would they hell.
    It’s just like the “new regionals National initiative” for Trinity/Northclffe and friends.
    They have appointed an individual who is not a player within the regionals to head up this function (RIP The Word). Obviously there is no talent left that could have taken on this position!! Northcliffe did the same thing with their last Commercial Director – he came from a national press background.

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