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Salmond joins plot to topple JP board – and return publisher’s HQ to Scotland

SalmondFormer Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has joined the plot to overthrow the current management of regional publisher Johnston Press, saying he wants the company to shift its HQ back to Scotland.

As recently reported by HTFP, Norwegian investor Christen Ager-Hanssen is leading a bid to oust the company’s present board and is expected to call for an extraordinary meeting of shareholders within days.

But it now appears that Mr Ager-Hanssen has decided against taking on the company’s chairmanship himself if his coup attempt is successful, slating former Scottish Nationalist Party leader Mr Salmond for the role instead.

And Mr Salmond, pictured, made clear his support for the takeover bid in an interview with the Telegraph, in which he also called on JP to shift its corporate headquarters back north of the border.

Mr Ager-Hanssen, whose investment vehicle Custos owns the Swedish version of the Metro, is now the biggest shareholder in JP with a 20pc stake in the company.

He is expected to call for an EGM with a view to removing current chairman Camilla Rhodes, and replacing current chief executive Ashley Highfield with former Local World boss Steve Auckland.

Mr Salmond was recently reported to be part of a consortium bidding to buy JP’s flagship title The Scotsman, although those reports were strenuously denied by the company.

He told the Telegraph he wants to help deliver a financial turnaround to allow JP to reinvest in journalism.

He said: “The financial side is Christen’s speciality and he is the man with the plan.

“In terms of journalism, which is my area of interest, the standards are depressing across the group. That is not the fault of the people who are there it is because of all the people who have left.”

Mr Salmond, who lost his Westminster seat at the General Election in June, said he wanted to see The Scotsman restored as an “engine of thought and creativity for the nation”.

“Unfortunately and for the first time in its 200-year history The Scotsman has become largely irrelevant,” he added.

Mr Salmond’s involvement will ring alarm bells among some journalists, given The Scotsman’s history as a pro-Unionist title.

However he insisted that if he became chairman, editorial lines would be decided by editors.

“The journalists will be free to do what they should be doing, which is to write the news and the facts. Editors will decide the editorial policies. As chairman, if we are successful, that’s not my job,” he said.

“But we’ll see if we can try and restore the paper to the respect in which it was held. That respect of having decent journalism and informed journalism is far more important than the editorial lines.”

A Johnston Press spokesman said: “We’re continuing to focus on producing great newspapers and delivering big digital audiences.

“In the most recent ABCs, The Scotsman recorded both a print circulation and digital audience rise, which together has helped it increase advertising revenues year on year.

“More broadly, the i newspaper is performing very well, with revenues up 17% in the quarter, and our digital revenues are up 16% in the quarter.  We are making good progress on our strategic review.”

The publisher was based in Edinburgh for most of its existence but in recent years its corporate HQ has been located in London’s West End.


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  • November 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Why would Mr Salmond’s involvement ring alarm bells? Surely anything is better than what they’ve got at the moment. Could be very interesting for Scottish journalism.

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  • November 2, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    “Why would Mr Salmond’s involvement ring alarm bells?”


    Any politician becoming involved in any newspaper or media outlet should ring alarms bells. Despite Salmond’s assurances of editorial non-interference, it wouldn’t be too long before the Scotsman became a mouthpiece for the SNP which is the whole point of his involvement. Returning a corporate HQ to Scotland is a secondary political prize.

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  • November 3, 2017 at 7:36 am

    Why would Salmond’s involvement ring alarm bells?

    Maybe because of his petty vendettas against anyone in the media that he feels has slighted him. Witness the unedifying scene at his resignation press conference where he banned two newspapers and told another – and specifically, the Guardian – which of its journalists were and were not allowed to attend.

    I would imagine there’s a fair few staff and freelance hacks at the Scotsman considering what their options are should Salmond take the JP hotseat, whatever his talk about editorial independence. I certainly can’t imagine David Torrance getting work there again.

    And when he starts chucking around phrases like ‘pro-Scottish’, that’s the chilling effect. I don’t think you could call the Scotsman anti-Scottish. It was certainly anti-independence, but still has a balance of voices in there, such as Riddoch.

    The arts, culture, business and sports coverage have never been less than first class and Scottish focused. So when he talks about it needing to be ‘pro-Scottish’ there’s only one implication, which again drags it back into that interference battleground.

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  • November 3, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Yes I accept there may be a political agenda involved and his treatment of some journalists was bad, but as far as replacing the board of JP goes I’m all for it. It couldn’t be any worse than the current lot who have badically destroyed once quality papers.

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