John Fry Takes Over At Johnston Press

January 5 is the day many people will be returning to work after their festive break, but for one man in particular 2009 will hold many challenges – not to mention responsibilities.

John Fry takes over as chief executive of the bloodied Johnston Press group, replacing Tim Bowdler who steps down from the company he joined in 1994.

And boy, will Fry have plenty to do.

The company's share price remains down, debts stand at £465million compared with its own market value of £77million, and fear lives in the eyes of staff working on every title wondering just what will come next.

They are about to find out.

Fry will find no shortage of people trying to advise him on the best way to haul the company out of the hole it finds itself in.

He is no stranger to making tough decisions, or even controversial ones for that, as his former company found out in the past.

But he delivered results, making him a key signing for JP.

And anyone who doubts his ability to understand the challenges of the Scottish media market should think again.

After all it was he who was chief executive of Archant when it sold off its Scottish stable of titles to Johnston Press for £11.2m in April 2007.

Which is why there should be no surprise if he looks again to the local titles in particular, and their web offerings, to see how he can make most of the resources at his disposal or indeed, how to inject life into its online operations as a whole.

In the past he has shown a shrewd eye for focusing on the many smaller ways of generating revenues to turn in profit, rather than concentrating on the obvious, a strategy that has up until now served him well.

Which is why one of the big questions will be what does he plan to do with the Scotsman titles in not just the short, but the long term.

And there remains the question of a possible tie or even merger with Trinity Mirror to form a company capable of withstanding the advertising drought brought on by the financial storm engulfing the global media markets.

That much was alluded to on Sunday in a piece by Bowdler in the Sunday Times and follows an earlier piece in the Scotland on Sunday which also suggested Trinity Mirror was lobbying behind the scenes for a relaxation in merger rules.

With Trinity Mirror also facing difficult times in advertising and with its own financial woes, it has already looked to make savings from staff and no-one will be surprised if Johnston doesn't now do the same.

Unless, of course, Fry can pull a rabbit out of the hat straight from the off.

Which may prove good news for those still actively building their shareholding in the company, such as non-executive director Ian Russell, who spent almost £100,000 on snapping up more of Johnston Press only last month.

Expect Johnston Press to be not just reporting, but making the news before 2009 is very much older.

Categories: Blogs

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: