Margareta Pagano: Trinity Mirror’s Simon Fox must box cleverer than this

The boss of one of biggest newspaper groups cannot afford to sound so dismissive of phone-hacking claims. Has he learnt nothing from News International?

Simon Fox, the new chief executive of Trinity Mirror, remarked in an email to staff last week that he was “deeply concerned” by the huge amount of publicity generated by the four new legal claims which were lodged against the newspaper group over phone-hacking. His precise words were that he was deeply concerned in the “absence of evidence how four unsubstantiated claims can attract publicity of such magnitude”.

It was a brave thing, and possibly a questionable statement, for Fox to make and I’m sure he’s havingsecond thoughts about it. If he, and his board, had done their proper due diligence, they should know that phone-hacking is alleged to have been rife at Trinity Mirror newspapers for years. According to sources, it was the Mirror’s success in getting the Ulrika Jonsson and Sven-Goran Eriksson affair story by phone-hacking, that prompted the News of the World to adopt the practice because it was so jealous of the Mirror’s success.

Investors certainly understood the full repercussions of the legal claims, selling  out as fast as they could. By Friday, shares closed down 20 per cent at 53p, valuing one of the UK’s biggest newspaper groups at just £132m. If there are successful legal actions – and if the police do press charges against former employees – this could have a negative impact on the Mirror’s already difficult financial position.

While newspapers are going through their own revolution, Trinity Mirror is fundamentally a sound group with an enterprise value of £360m, double its present stock market value. It owns 260 titles and employs 6,000 staff around the country – so it’s critical that Fox gets this current crisis right before any more jobs in the industry are chopped because of appalling management.

It’s why some of the biggest investors fear more damaging news could push the share price down further, hurting its banking covenants and making it harder to  service its £197m debt. More shocks could even lead advertisers to walk, another lesson from the News of the World affair.

That’s why it’s vital that Fox, and the new chairman, David Grigson, clean up this mess. Instead of moaning about negative publicity, he should have announced his own independent investigation. So he was made to look weak, and forced by investor pressure to launch an internal inquiry. What’s so troubling about Fox’s reaction is that he just doesn’t seem to get just how potentially inflammable this growing scandal could be. Or prefers to ignore it.

Ironically, Fox and Grigson are the new boys on the street so they had the chance to start with a fresh slate. Investors were ready to give them the benefit of the doubt. But not if they continue as they are. There’s lots they could do: appoint a QC to handle an inquiry, possibly put money into court ahead of any claims or set aside provisions for compensation.

Investors are sick of the phone-hacking denials, when even former staff – like James Hipwell – admitted as much to the Leveson inquiry. On past record, they are right not to believe management. Let’s not forget that it was the previous chief executive, Sly Bailey, who told Leveson she didn’t launch an inquiry because there was no evidence that Mirror Group journalists had hacked into phones. Paul Vickers, the legal director and a former barrister, is the only one so far who has investigated “editorial procedures” but he didn’t look at the past. It was unbelievable then, and is even more unbelievable now.

Has Fox asked Vickers, who has been at the Mirror for donkey’s years, what the past practices were?

Fox should show more cunning than this if he is to give shareholders greater confidence in future.

Carroll shows a maturity lacking in sniping investors

Ever since Cynthia Carroll set foot in Anglo-American six years ago, the American geologist has been subjected to vicious and misogynist sniping.

Mining is a tough industry but even for such a macho one, the ranting was offensive; specifically from ex-Anglo executives who suggested she suffered from sexual frustration. Jealousy and spite seem to be behind much of the criticism as Carroll went into Anglo to blow out cobwebs. And so she did; shaking up old-fashioned practices, making the mines more environmentally friendly and ensuring the health and safety of miners.

But this also made her enemies. The timing of her arrival didn’t help either – she took over as chief executive just before the financial crash, which saw the commodities boom burst, hitting all the world’s biggest mining groups. Anglo’s share price is down 40 per cent since then – but so are the shares of rival miners, so she hasn’t done too badly.

Yet, that hasn’t stopped investors griping to chairman, Sir John Parker, for months now. The situation hasn’t been helped by problems at Anglo’s South African platinum mines or the overspend in Brazil; events outside Anglo’s control.

Sir John has been unwavering in his support but it appears Carroll decided its better to go now rather then let revolt turn into war. Knowing when to leave a top job is a sign of maturity. Six years as boss is long by today’s standards and she’s got two teenage children going to the US for college to be closer to.

Judging Carroll’s legacy is muddied by her gender; a man in the same position would not have been treated like she has been. She cracked the glass ceiling but couldn’t cut the platinum one. Investors voted with their feet on her departure and the shares rose. Sadly, that says it all.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

£250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

£100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn