Sly Bailey, one of the most powerful women in the British media, quit as chief executive of Trinity Mirror yesterday after a revolt by shareholders who demanded that she cut her lucrative bonus package. The news prompted a cheer in the newsroom of the company's Daily Mirror, where staff played a YouTube clip of a scene from The Wizard of Oz: “Ding-dong, the witch is dead...”
Ms Bailey had earned £14m in salary and bonuses during a decade in charge and the scale of her earnings has contributed to criticisms of the company's recent strategic failures. Despite the closure of the rival News of the World in July, Trinity Mirror's titles, the Sunday Mirror and The People, have not exploited the opportunities.
Trinity Mirror has also struggled to position itself as a digital publisher, and a major relaunch of its website this year has resulted in a fall in traffic with monthly users down 20 per cent year on year.
Ms Bailey, who was on a salary of £750,000 a year before bonuses, has worked hard to deliver for investors so there was an irony that she was forced out ahead of Trinity Mirror's AGM next week by shareholders who felt they were not getting a good enough return. In a further irony, the revolt was led by Aviva, which faced its own shareholder rebellion on pay yesterday. Legal & General and Scottish Widows are among other top investors said to have leaned on the board, which met with Ms Bailey before her resignation was announced just after 5.30pm.
Trinity Mirror said that it had "consistently delivered robust profits" during Ms Bailey's time at the helm. The chairman, Sir Ian Gibson, praised her "immense contribution and leadership".
Those sympathies were not shared by many of the staff, who had endured massive cuts to editorial budgets. One journalist at the Liverpool Echo, one of Trinity Mirror's regional newspapers, said: "Every time her bonuses were going up we were losing people from the newsroom. We called her the wicked witch of the south."
Bill Hagerty, a former editor of The People, said: "The tragedy is it might already be too late to redress Sly Bailey's inability – through inadequate editorial investment – to keep Trinity Mirror's national titles journalistically as well as commercially competitive. For those who remember the great and muscular Mirror Group titles in their heyday it has been especially sad, like watching good friends waste away through malnutrition."