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Regional MDs depart in fresh JP management shake-up

Two regional managing directors are set to leave Johnston Press in a restructure that will see several publishing divisions combined.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield has unveiled a series of management changes which he says are designed to create a more “agile” leadership team and speed up decision-making.

It will see fewer senior managers across the company’s various divisions with flagship titles the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman now coming under the same MD, Helen Oldham.

Those leaving the business include Jean Long, regional MD for Northern Ireland, and Stuart Birkett, whose portfolio previously covered the group’s Scottish titles.

Said Ashley:  “The changes I’m implementing are to make us a more agile and effective leadership team and speed up our decision-making processes.

“In addition, we need to allow our digital team to be even more focused on developing great new products and capabilities for our customers.

“These are exciting times digitally and we need to be even more invested in selecting and delivering the best for our audiences.

“I want to thank Jean and Stuart for their long service – 22 years in both cases – and enormous contribution to the business. I wish them every success with their future endeavours.”

The changes will include the creation of a digital product group, to be headed by digital product development officer Jeff Moriarty, which will focus entirely on product development across all platforms.

The role of chief commercial officer rolem, held by Neil Jones until his departure earlier this summer, is being replaced by a new position of group managing director.

This role will be filled, on an interim basis, by John Bills, currently MD of North Midlands & South Yorkshire, with Midlands MD Richard Parkinson extending his own role to cover John’s responsibilities in the interim.

Ashley also announced the creation of a new role of chief creative officer which he said would “put innovation and creativity at the forefront of our solutions for advertisers.”

And the newspaper circulation team and the marketing team will combine to create a single marketing function, led by chief marketing officer Lucy Sinclair, who will be responsible for circulation and total audience growth, assisted by Richard Thomson, former group sales and circulation director, who takes on the expanded role of marketing operations and content sales director.

The full list of new roles and responsibilities for the regional MDs are as follows:

•    Richard Parkinson, MD for the Midlands, has his portfolio extended to include interim responsibility for North Midlands South Yorkshire while John Bills is acting Group MD. Richard will also lead the development of the Property category and, in the interim, national advertising and digital sales development.

•    Helen Oldham, MD for Yorkshire, sees her portfolio extended to include the Scottish flagship brands – The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News.

•    Stephen Plews, MD for the North East, has his portfolio extended to include all the Scottish brands excluding The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News.

•    Karl Dimmock, MD of the South, will now also lead the development of the Motors category.

•    Warren Butcher, MD of the North West and Isle of Man, has his portfolio extended to include the Northern Ireland brands.

10 comments

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  • July 22, 2014 at 8:34 am
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    You can picture the scene as CJ (or AH) tells his surviving MDs their role will now include managing more newspapers and web operations in different counties, regions and countries and their brief will be to head previously diverse and separate functions while demonstrating even greater speed and agility.

    “I didn’t get where I am…etc. What do you think guys, exciting times eh?”

    “G-reat AH!”

    “Su-per AH?”

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  • July 22, 2014 at 11:14 am
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    Ashley also announced the creation of a new role of chief creative officer which he said would “put innovation and creativity at the forefront of our solutions for advertisers.”

    Is he having a laugh? He made talented designers redundant and sent work to India. In his speed to make redundancies, all ‘designers’, be they working for pre-press as mac operators or qualified graphic designers in studio came under ‘Creative Services’. From what I see, the advertisers must certainly be missing the type of quality design that was afforded to them by designers that knew the areas in which they worked: how to pitch the ad.

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  • July 22, 2014 at 11:40 am
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    Whenever you hear the words “exciting times” you know the redundancy bell is about to toll again.

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  • July 22, 2014 at 11:56 am
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    Will outgoing MD Jean Long make a bid for the News Letter in Northern Ireland?

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  • July 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm
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    Are the ‘Flagship Scottish papers’ the same ones us JP staff are being told internally that are dragging us down? Recently heard one of the people named above describe Scotland (in terms of our papers) as a “black hole of debt threatening to consumer all in its path’.

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  • July 22, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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    I make that 4 MD’s at the Scotsman since 2012 – You would be safer taking a football managers job than MD in scotland

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  • July 23, 2014 at 8:34 pm
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    How ironic. Even creativity is to be centralised in a rigid Stalinist structure now.
    Can’t wait to see the new bold ideas from the Chief Creative Officer.

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  • July 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm
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    I wonder if the Chief Creative Officer will advocate employing more journalists to make the content of the newspapers more relevant?

    Oh, hold on, I must shut the window. There’s a pig flying outside.

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  • July 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm
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    Same old, same old JP.
    Two more operational, customer and staff facing MD’s leave the business.
    Other MD’s get spread more thinly and become less accountable and less effective.
    Meanwhile, more remote centralisation.
    A new Group MD, albeit it “interim”…..what’s all that about ?
    And a new Group “Chief Creative Officer” no doubt to take on more central “thought leadership” and to further stifle creativity at the coal face.
    The circulation management changes are incomprehensible while some MD is responsible for “digital sales development” while Jeff Moriaty is left to look after the sexy stuff.
    The whole thing sounds half-baked, an expensive shuffling of the deck chairs and further evidence that JP sees all the ‘leadership’ coming from a growing band of people sat in London….well away from staff and customers in the provinces.
    Why keep things simple when you cloud the issues by a complex jumble of managerial ‘unaccountability’ ?

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