Roger Parry: The man with the plan for ITV does his rounds of London's media village

A day in the life of Chairman of Johnston Press
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It is Thursday, the busiest day of this week for Roger Parry, chairman of the regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press. A former journalist, Mr Parry wakes to Today on Radio 4 in the Kensington home he shares with his wife Johanna (a director at management consultants McKinsey) and 13-year-old son, Ben, who attends the elite Westminster School as a day-boy. Mr Parry has been a habitual listener to Today ever since he worked on it some 20 years ago. Two years ago, Mr Parry gave up his full-time job - running the international operations of the American media group Clear Channel - after he tired of the constant travel. He was in charge of 65 countries and the travelling had become "quite extreme". Day-trips to European cities were tiresome and having to go to Bucharest was a particular bug-bear.

He now has three non-executive chairman roles and also spends his time working on a number of private-equity projects. He has been in the news after he put together a bid for ITV earlier this year and, more recently, he has put himself forward as a candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant chief executive job at ITV (but only if the company agrees to his very specific terms).


Breakfast is at The George, a private members' club in Mayfair, with Jonnie Goodwin, the head of LongAcre Partners, a highly rated and highly fashionable specialist media advisory outfit. LongAcre is behind many deals in the media industry and the pair, who have known each other for years, are working on a couple of (secret) projects.

The meeting also gives Mr Parry an opportunity to catch up with all the gossip, as he has been away in Australia for a month, his first family holiday for seven years. Mr Goodwin is treating, as he is the member of George which, Mr Parry says, "does the absolute best tomatoes of any breakfast joint in London, fantastic grilled, sun-dried tomatoes". Mr Parry normally does breakfast either at the Ritz or the Wolseley when it is on his own ticket. He tends to breakfast out two or three days a week. He gets around by Tube these days - he had to give up his chauffeur even when he was at Clear Channel when the company re-bid for the contract to run the advertising on the Tube and London Underground insisted that he get an Oyster card (they checked up on its usage too).


Mr Parry has no fixed office any more. He works from home (his secretary works remotely from her home too) or from whatever office he is visiting that day. He goes to the London office - near Regent's Park - of the Bath-based magazine publisher Future, where he is chairman, to meet the chief executive Stevie Spring. She has been in the job just two months and Mr Parry admits the company is "facing some challenges".

Ms Spring, who also used to work under Mr Parry at Clear Channel, is developing a new three-year plan for Future. The company is in the "second phase" of turnaround, Mr Parry says. He invested his own money in Future shares at 20p a share and the stock now trades at 32p. The company has been particularly hard hit by the slowdown in consumer magazines. Mr Parry says: "Stevie is bubbling with ideas. A lot rides on her coming up with a new strategic plan".


Mr Parry travels to Moorgate, in the City, to give a presentation to investors at a JP Morgan/ Cazenove conference. The subject of his talk is "Media Investing. The Real Rocky Horror show". He says the talk has that title "because prospects are rocky and profits are a horror show" but his message is actually upbeat.

"We are going through a very wrenching transition, from analogue to digital, across all parts of the media industry. But there is absolutely no reason why some of the existing media companies will not emerge as winners. Out of this, stable new business models will emerge," he says.

Media businesses are now being tested, he says, to see which of them will successfully make the transition to the new operating environment. "But this has always happened. When television came along, some radio companies went bust, others reinvented themselves and thrived."

At Johnston Press, the new strategy is all about focusing on local communities, with new website offerings that exploit the standing that its papers have in their areas, through features such as streaming video of news events and listings of local events.

"My secret weapon is having a 13 year old. You watch the way a 13 year old consumes media and you simply realise, the game is up. And you're going have to change your approach to meet this guy's needs."


A meeting at Globe Theatre, the reconstructed venue where Shakespeare had his plays performed. Mr Parry's association with the project goes back to the mid-1980s, when he was a consultant at McKinsey (where he met his wife). He was convinced by Sam Wanamaker, the film director who was behind the recreation of the Globe, to put together the business plan. "It was an extraordinarily inspirational thing, doing this task for Sam, because we all did it for nothing. Just by sheer energy and enthusiasm he managed to motivate us all to run around putting in hundreds of hours."

Last year, Mr Parry, 53, made the decision that he would get involved in one major pro bono project and the Globe "kindly" made him chairman of the trustees.

Mr Parry enthuses that the Globe is on track for the best September ever in terms of total visitors and that artistic director Dominic Dromgoole is having a "fabulous" first season.

His big project for the Globe is a new £20m fundraising campaign to complete the next phase of Sam Wanamaker's vision, building a learning centre, rehearsal centre and indoor theatre, to finish off the scheme.

"I hope it takes two years but if it takes 10, it takes 10... It is ironic, in the past year I have probably spent more time on the Globe - which is pro bono - than any other activity or project."


Mr Parry is seeing two guys from a media-buying outfit, in Covent Garden, to discuss ITV. Mr Parry spent seven years working in the media-buying business himself. He reckons that ITV's relationship with the media-buying community is "quite fraught, quite tense" and this is one of the things that Mr Parry would seek to repair if he ever gets the chance of running the company.

But, surprisingly, he has sympathy for the outgoing ITV chief executive Charles Allen - who he does not know personally, even though he is a near-neighbour in Kensington.

"I am not critical at all of Charles Allen as an individual because I have extraordinary sympathy for him. ITV is the only company that has this huge weight of shareholder pressure breathing down its neck. BBC, Channel 4, five and Sky really have to worry about the audience."


Drinks at Garrick Club, where Mr Parry is a member, with Mervyn Metcalf, a top media investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Parry and Mr Metcalf worked closely on two bids this year - for ITV and the retailer HMV - but this is a social meeting, rather than a business call. In fact, business meetings are not allowed at the Garrick, which bans people looking over business papers and using mobile phones, "which is a really good thing".

Mssrs Metcalf and Parry secretly worked on HMV for six months, talking to banks, shareholders, analysts, customers, but their interest become public when they approached the board in the spring. HMV did not want to enter discussions, so the 210p-a-share bid, backed by the private equity house Permira, was withdrawn. The price is currently at around 150p. "We thought it represented compelling shareholder value at the time. You have to ask a shareholder how they feel about 150 today... I saw it also as a radical turnaround opportunity. In my own mind HMV is a media company that retails media, rather than a retail business."

He says he is now not doing any work "at all" on HMV, where he would have been executive chairman, had he succeeded.


Dinner is with another private equity group, HG Capital in Hamilton Place in the West End. This is a regular event, which takes place about three times a year, designed to be a networking opportunity.

"I've been very enamoured of private equity. The speed of decision-making, the intellectual quality of the analysts, you get really big things done quickly."

Mr Parry returns to Kensington that evening, rather than go down to Hampshire, where he has another house (as well as one in the Bahamas). He tries to spend three days a week in Hampshire and he would dearly like to go down this evening but cannot because of the dinner. He is to head to Hampshire the next morning.