Founder resigns from Harrington Kilbride

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The Independent Online
Kevin Harrington yesterday resigned as pounds 125,000-a-year managing director of the troubled Harrington Kilbride publishing group he founded as a 22- year-old in 1978 and floated on the stock market just before Christmas in 1991.

He leaves a company yet to announce results for 1994, one which has lost favour with investors. Shares, floated at 120p, have slumped from a peak 252p peak in September of 1993 to 34p, down 1p yesterday.

Mr Harrington's departure also comes three months after he moved sideways on the board, making way for a management buy-in led by Ian Fletcher, who built up the Yellow Advertiser into the largest independent publisher of free newspapers.

At the time of the buy-in, Mr Harrington said: "We have been talking with Ian for a few months. We needed to strengthen the board."

That statement has been interpreted as a sign that the management had been unable to resolve trading difficulties brought about by expanding too quickly into uncertain areas such as eastern European titles.

The group lost pounds 1.4m in the first half, and a profit in the whole of the previous year was restated to a pounds 1.1m loss due to pounds 3m of provisions on the eastern European titles.

Kevin Austin, displaced as finance director by John Finlayson, another member of the buy-in team, yesterday resigned his directorship and post as company secretary. Mr Austin was elevated from financial controller to finance director in August 1993.

Mr Fletcher, chief executive, yesterday declined to comment on whether the two directors had been asked to resign. He was unable to answer questions about the company's financial position, but did say the full extent of trading horrors of 1994 would be revealed on Friday.

The two departures put Mr Fletcher, who paid pounds 250,000 for a 5 per cent stake in the company, and Mr Finlayson firmly in control. There was also some speculation in the City yesterday that they would try to buy some, if not all of Mr Harrington's 18 per cent shareholding to further strengthen their position.