Tue - 21.11.2017

Last Johnston may go from Johnston Press

Last Johnston may go from Johnston Press

Last month it may have seemed that Ashley Highfield, appointed CEO of Johnston Press last July, wasn't moving forward with plans to restructure the company particularly quickly.

But now it appears that changes are taking place at the publisher. The Scotsman, one of the biggest papers owned by the group, reported yesterday that three Johnston Press executives were "in consultation over their future with the publishing company".

One of these is Michael Johnston, divisional managing director for Scotland and North-East, who is the last member of the company's founding family to still work with the group. 

Were Johnston to leave the company, his departure would mark the end of a long history; Johnston Press was founded as a printing business in Falkirk 1767 and bought its first newspaper, the Falkirk Herald, in 1846. 

However, there are already no Johnstons involved in the publisher's senior management. Fred Johnston, Michael's father, retired from the company's main board in 2010. He is described fondly by Roy Greenslade at the Guardian, who writes that he "ran his company in traditional family-owned fashion, seeking to meet every employee at least once a year."

The other two executives involved in talks with the company's management are named by The Scotsman as the divisional finance director for Scotland and North-East, David Caskie, and the managing director of Johnston Falkirk, Richard Bell.

Highfield confirmed that the talks were taking place in a statement quoted by The Scotsman. "We are in consultation with senior executives at The Scotsman Publications and Johnston Falkirk and we are unable to make any further comment at the present time," he said. 

Johnston Press has faced serious financial difficulties in recent years. The company's share price, which was 480p five years ago, is currently around 6.5p. Press Gazette notes that, in November, the company announced that it was taking part in talks to refinance its debt, which totaled £357m. 

But despite the large debt, which was mainly a consequence of costly acquisitions including the Scotsman itself, Highfield was relatively positive about the company's financial outlook in an interview with In Publishing last month. "Every newspaper in the group has a healthy margin over 20 per cent and all up the business is very profitable," he stated. 

Sources: The Scotsman, sfnblog, Guardian, Press Gazette, In Publishing


Hannah Vinter


2012-02-23 17:37

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