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.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
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

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices