Me And My Partner: John Pfeil And Jim Brown

Jim Brown was chief executive of Reed Regional Newspapers when he recruited John Pfeil as finance director. Through a management buyout they formed Newsquest Media Group, which is now the third largest regional publisher in the UK

which has an annual turnover of pounds 306m and more than 5,000 employees

JIM BROWN: John was financial controller at Reed Elsevier and we met at a conference. We came together by happenstance over lunch and chatted, and John impressed me as a particularly bright young chap with a very flexible mind. He also had an experience one doesn't always see in an accountant and a knowledge of world accounting.

Shortly afterwards, we lost the financial director of the newspaper side, so that gave me the opportunity to attract John. It was only a few weeks later that we found out Reed was prepared to sell the business and we got into a management buyout situation. John's knowledge of finance was worth its weight in gold, and we jointly said to Reed that we would try and buy.

John strikes you as totally focused and extremely bright. Underneath all that he's essentially nice. It was important that I could feel he could work with the rest of the team, because the business is very much a team job and he had to be a team player. I felt he would not only bring his skill, but also that he would be one of us.

John and I must have done hundreds of presentations during the buyout; there was a lot of reliance on each other and we built up a great deal of trust. From that, we had the confidence to go and buy out what was then Westminster Press (from Pearson) and to double the size of the company. That was a brilliant acquisition, and we were able to turn it round.

Since then, we've been doing all sorts of things in new media - we got the first regional newspaper on the Internet - and I think we've taken a UK leadership there.

John's office is two steps away from mine and we cross the corridor all day, talking through things. We have a similar approach to a complex business, running 180 titles, each one with a different set of problems.

Where there are any differences in our views, they're usually so narrow that by the time we've knocked it about, we find common ground. We're visiting centres two days a week so we pretty well get to the grassroots, and we have a chance to talk through any problems then.

At the weekend, John goes off and I go off and he spends time with his family and I spend time with mine: socially we don't see one another at all.

But at work, we have to have a close relationship - if we didn't get on then we would spend too much time knocking sparks around.

JOHN PFEIL: Jim and I had rubbed shoulders when I was at Reed Elsevier. I'd spent my life in an environment of finance, accountants and tax. Jim came from a different background, having ink in his veins, and that was very refreshing.

Six weeks after I started with Jim, the company was put up for sale. The management buyout was something four or five of us had discussed in the abstract but I was something of a Johnnie-Come-Lately. I was out of my depth in the sense that it was a new area - but a lot of it falls back to the finance person and I was able to contribute because of the experience I had had.

With the buyout, we were put under pressure and everything happened in a short period of time. There was a lot of stress, and you see how people react. What might have taken a year to cement took just weeks.

It puts a huge responsibility on you - you have not only yourself and your personal finances to consider, but there are also business responsibilities as well. The alternative to the buyout would probably have been that the company would be broken up and sold off to different bidders.

Jim did remarkably well, particularly for someone who was due to retire that year at 60. It's one thing to work in lots of different roles in the business, but another thing to lead a management buyout double the size of the business and then float it within a couple of years. The fact that we did that without too many things falling apart on the way is a tribute to the way Jim works.

He's used to very tight deadlines and to turning things round quickly. We're both impatient and always want to be getting on with things, not standing still. I think that's helped us to grab opportunities.

The Internet is moving incredibly rapidly and we've been more rapid than most because we've got very short lines of communication and decision- making. We don't go into big committees, we go out to the business and we spend a lot of time out there. That's what it's about, not sitting back here and telling people to do things.

The whole market is changing significantly and it's an interesting time to be in thisindustry. Its image has changed: in the last year it's been seen by the City as an attractive industry, rather than a sunset one, and we've played a part in that. All the companies are achieving particularly good results, and people can see that the brands and franchises we've got are terrific assets.

Jim and I have the same style: during one presentation, when Jim got caught up in traffic, I started to do his bit and I was desperate to get him to do my bit, but he got there just in time. We've got to the stage where we both know each other's lines; because we work so closely we are likely to say things in a similar way.

Finance is where my strength lies; Jim will come at it from his experience level and gut feeling and I will come at it from, "Does it make sense financially? What are the implications?" We complement each other well.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
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

.NET Developer

£650 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer ASP.Net, C#.net, WCF, WPF, .N...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment