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Newsquest paid £15.2m for Romanes group, company accounts reveal

Newsquest

Regional publisher Newsquest paid £15.2m to buy the Romanes Media Group in May, the company’s latest accounts have revealed.

The US-owned publisher’s annual results for 2014 reveal for the first time how much the company paid for the independent group, which comprised one daily title and 28 weekly titles in Scotland, Berkshire and Northern Ireland.

The accounts also show that Newsquest made pre-tax profits of £58.65m in 2014, up from £58.48m in 2013, while the number of employees was cut by 228 to save £5.2m in staff costs.

Newsquest staff numbers were cut to 3,997 last year, although the overall number of editorial staff fell by only 17 during the period.

The results show the publisher’s operating profit for 2014 was £51.4m, compared to £52.8m the previous year, while revenues were down 3.2pc to £279.3m.

The Romanes Media Group, which Newsquest purchased in May, had a turnover of £18m for the year to September 2014 and an operating profit of £2.9m.

Since its takeover of the Romanes group, Newsquest has announced a series of job cuts at the newly-acquired papers, particularly at Berkshire titles the Reading Chronicle, Slough Observer and Bracknell News.

A number of senior executives have lost their jobs, production roles in Berkshire have been transferred to existing Newsquest production hubs, and staff photographer jobs have been lost.

NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “These figures show up the thin tales of hardship spun by local Newsquest bean counters for what they really are.  It is journalists and other low paid workers who have paid the price for these gains – with their jobs and with consecutive years of pay freezes.

“Meanwhile quality suffers but readers are not only expected to fill the papers with their own free content but then buy it back. It’s simply not a sustainable strategy.”

Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ group coordinator added: “This is still a very profitable company whose employees are on their knees with year after endless year without a pay rise.

“This has to stop in 2016 and staff must share in the one-sided gain the company is reaping from massive productivity increases coming through the grim conveyor belt of job losses.”

The accounts also show that Newsquest’s highest paid director, who is believed to be chief executive Henry Faure Walker, received total remuneration of £401,505 compared to £610,458 in 2013, when the role was held by Paul Davidson.

In total, the directors were paid more than £1m in 2014 including salaries, taxable benefits, performance-related payments and pension contributions, which was up from £928,000 in 2013.

The NUJ claimed that performance-related pay to Newsquest’s directors had increased from £268,000 in 2013 to 338,000 in 2014.

But a source close to Newsquest said the payments in 2013 related to just two directors compared to three in 2014, and said average director pay had decreased by 24pc year-on-year.

15 comments

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  • October 15, 2015 at 8:37 am
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    That’s right – as long as the suits are getting a disproportionate share of the spoils all’s well in the best of all possible worlds.

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  • October 15, 2015 at 10:20 am
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    It’s good to see “a source close to Newsquest” being stung into some sort of figleaf explanation. For it to be convincing we need to know if by “pay” they mean base salary only or including “performance related payments”. We also need to know who the directors were that received payments – most of the Newsquest Media board are from the US parent Gannett and therefore drawing their pay elsewhere – and what the breakdown of remuneration for each UK director was in full to differentiate any part-time non-exec appointments. Also, when in the year were they appointed and thus start drawing pay? Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press report all this, why can’t Newsquest in the interests of transparency?

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  • October 15, 2015 at 11:49 am
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    Isn’t this a scandal? What right have these newspapers to point at the speck in other people’s eyes? There was never any salary hike at Newsquest during my time there. There was a culture of Friday ‘announcements’ on who has lost jobs due to ‘the difficult trading circumstances’. At the end of the year, ‘despite all loss they suffered in the print department’ they still sacrificed £15 vouchers on their staff. Shame on these people. Disgusting lot. They got rid of all their experienced staff, and these shameless lot are still advertising for ‘experienced copy subs’ for sweatshops in Newport and Weymouth.

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  • October 15, 2015 at 12:56 pm
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    Bosses pay is higher than other employees – shock!

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  • October 15, 2015 at 4:26 pm
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    Disgusting company that has only serviced to destroy any quality its newspapers, pre-Newquest, had, and put experienced journalists on the dole.

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  • October 16, 2015 at 8:42 am
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    Could Mr Redundant explain what he means by “sweatshop”? Does he know how things work in Weymouth and Newport? All the “experienced copy subs” I’ve spoken to who work there seem to think they’ve landed on their feet. Perhaps Mr Redundant is bitter because he opted for redundancy rather than a transfer to Weymouth or Newport. Beggars can’t be choosers and in this day and age you go where the jobs are.

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  • October 16, 2015 at 8:56 am
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    Where have the NUJ official’s “Bean Counters” comments gone ?

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  • October 16, 2015 at 9:47 am
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    George George says you go where the jobs are.
    Okay George, pack your bags for India if JP comes your way.

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  • October 16, 2015 at 11:15 am
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    Sunset – another bitter ex-sub? There are jobs around, Sunset, you just have to look. There are jobs for subs advertised on holdthefrontpage and I don’t just mean at Newsquest’s hubs where, incidentally, more than 100 copy editors work. Yes, subs have been made redundant across the country but that’s how the industry is nowadays. There are subbing jobs but people need to stop moaning and go and apply for one.

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  • October 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm
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    George George

    I am in gainful employment but not in newspapers. From what I read in HTFP, I wouldn’t trust some of the media owners with my granny’s knickers.
    That, sadly, is the difference between journalism and other occupations.

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