Wanted: crusader to recapture former glories of the 'Express'

uncertain future of Lord Stevens's titles after the sudden departure of Sir Nicholas Lloyd

The morning the news broke last week at the Daily Express that editor Sir Nicholas Lloyd was leaving, the reaction was mixed, to say the least.

Some thought he had decided to leave of his own accord, tired of the grind of running one of Fleet Street's most under-invested newspapers; sick of being the perennial also-ran, beaten by the broad shoulders of the Daily Mail - uncertain of its agenda where the Mail is confident, even arrogant.

There was even talk that he would leave to mount a management buy-out of the titles, to exact revenge on Lord Stevens, the paper's owner, and show what could be done with the paper if it had a different management.

Others saw his resignation as the enforced departure of a liability: a man intent on being the last serious editor in Britain solidly behind John Major.

Certainly Lord Stevens, chairman of United News and Media, so intent on making a go of the Express Group (illustrious in history, once phenomenally profitable and now so risibly weak), was forced to make a move. The Express titles, along with the Daily Star and a raft of regional papers, are the poor performers in an otherwise healthy parent company: United News and Media makes good profits from its exhibitions and magazine operations. But the City regards the combined operations with suspicion.

The first indication that management was taking the initiative came late this summer, when it announced that 220 jobs would go. That began to attack the first of the Express Group's three main problems: a high cost base, lack of investment, and stagnating circulation. Insiders initially believed that the second front - the move to pump more money into editorial budgets - might have begun with yesterday's 3p increase in the cover price, matching the Daily Mail's 35p a copy. But Andrew Cameron, the managing director, told Sir Nicholas he would not be getting much, if any, of the extra pounds 10m a year likely to be generated by the price increase.

On the third front, circulation, the group's management believes that improved editorial content is the only way to stop the slide. Under Sir Nicholas's direction, the Daily Express's circulation fell over 10 years from the 2 million mark to just over 1.2 million - galling for a title that, in its Beaverbrook glory days, regularly sold in excess of 4 million.

That Lord Stevens was ready to dump Sir Nicholas became painfully obvious when it was revealed that the chairman and Mr Cameron travelled to New York four weeks ago to offer the job to Martin Dunn, former editor of Today and now at the New York Daily News, for a salary reputed to be pounds 300,000 (the new benchmark for Fleet Street editors since the Telegraph's Max Hastings decamped to the Evening Standard for that amount).

That Lord Stevens was not yet ready to announce a change of editor was equally obvious. In the terse statement that heralded Sir Nicholas's departure, it was clear that no successor had been found and that the resignation would take effect only at the end of the month.

The fact that so few names have been mentioned as likely replacements suggests Lord Stevens is having difficulty. Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the Sun and now head of Mirror TV, has ruled himself out.

Barring an offer he can't refuse (say, from the secretive Barclay brothers now completing a purchase of the Scotsman, or Tony O'Reilly, owner of 43 per cent of the Independent) Lord Stevens is unlikely to sell the titles outright.

That leaves the prospect either of a spin-off, listing the newspaper holdings separately in order to divert investor attention to the more lucrative magazine and exhibition holdings, or a proper programme of reinvestment and editorial improvement.

The stock market apparently believes Lord Stevens is committed to the operations, and marked up the share price last week. If this summer's cost-cutting can be matched by further savings - for instance through working with other newspaper groups to share general back office and production costs - then perhaps financial prospects can be improved.

There is every reason to believe Lord Stevens will make a concerted effort to stop the rot. His ego would be bruised if some kind of recovery (or perhaps, as a long shot, a sale at a phenomenal price) was not forthcoming. He will have an eye on the value of his stock options, too: last week's 19p increase to 536p was a welcome first step back to the 700p-plus value achieved last year, and even for well-heeled Lord Stevens every little bit helps.

Mathew Horsman is media editor of the 'Independent'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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 Media

Recruitment Genius: 3D CAD Designer - Exhibition Stands

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Rapid growth has seen a number ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor