Departing Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett was today named chairman of Guardian Media Group, sending a powerful signal that its loss-making flagship newspaper could soon charge for its website.
During his six-year tenure at Virgin, New Zealand-born Berkett focused on persuading customers to buy more services such as broadband, pay-TV, home phone and mobile. Dame Liz Forgan, chairman of the Scott Trust, owner of GMG, highlighted Berkett’s digital expertise and skills in reshaping businesses.
The Guardian is under pressure to charge for online news after losing £44 million last year. The paper’s website and Android app are free but it has experimented with charging for its iPhone and iPad apps.
A source close to GMG said there are no plans to charge for its website, and it was too soon to know about Berkett’s strategy as he takes over in September. Berkett, a GMG non-executive director since 2009, replaces ex-Morgan Stanley banker Dame Amelia Fawcett, who is retiring.
Forgan said Fawcett “hands over a strong and confident business”.