Ian Burrell: The return of Rommel as he marches into Britain's local newspaper industry
The Ulsterman seems to have microscopic vision for the merest traces of meat on the tiniest piece of bone
David Montgomery's return to British newspapers yesterday has provoked mixed reactions, as you might expect of someone who is referred to in newsrooms as both "Monty" and "Rommel", often in the same sentence.
Mr Montgomery has a reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter. Like a purveyor of competitively-priced fried chicken, the Ulsterman seems to have microscopic vision for the merest traces of meat on the tiniest pieces of bone. Most other media entrepreneurs thought the British local newspaper industry offered nothing more to feed on – but Monty sees margins that can still be improved.
With his faith in the enduring popularity of print media he would love to be seen as a saviour of the regional press. His Local World's purchase of DMGT's Northcliffe stable and its merger with the Iliffe-owned portfolio creates a powerful new player in a sector that has been starved of investment.
The parlous state of the local press can be seen in the staggering fact that Northcliffe was valued at £1.5bn as recently as six years ago. And now DGMT, which is increasingly focused on its B2B interests, has sold its local papers to Montgomery for £52.5m (retaining a 38.7 per cent stake).
But staff and readers of such titles as the Bristol Post and the Leicester Mercury should not anticipate an injection of new resources. Mr Montgomery's view is that papers can only survive by abandoning their traditional models and employing small teams of highly flexible, multi-skilled workers.
This will not reassure those who worry that local courts and council meetings are no longer being reported on.
Mr Montgomery has a chequered record. In national newspapers (where he acquired the Rommel nickname because "Monty was on our side") he is remembered as a successful tabloid journalist (he edited the News of the World and Today) and a brutal manager.
After founding Mecom Group in 2000, he marched into Germany (a gift to headline writers) to introduce his efficiency savings. Mecom's acquisition of 300 titles from the Netherlands to Poland, was counter to the narrative that print was in decline.
But the recession caused a collapse in advertising. Mecom posted a pre-tax loss of £944m for 2008 and sold its German papers, including the Berliner Zeitung.
Early last year, the shareholders forced Mr Montgomery out. For the sake of local democracy we must hope this phase of his eventful career has a happier ending.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 Comfortable in their own skin
- 3 Japanese plant experts produce 10,000 lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm
- 4 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 5 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
Israel-Gaza conflict: Death toll tops 125 after overnight raids as Operation Protective Edge continues
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Gaza-Israel conflict: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to streets of London, Paris and New York in wave of protests
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
iJobs Money & Business
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...
£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...