'Mirror' chief denies breaking promises

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The Independent Online
DAVID MONTGOMERY, chief executive of Mirror Group Newspapers, which is proposing to join a consortium bid for the Independent and Independent on Sunday, said yesterday there had been 'a lot of dishonest reporting about our affairs'.

He was responding to the chapel (branch) of the National Union of Journalists at the papers which questioned whether he was a fit person to be involved with the papers, because of the way he had broken written guarantees on redundancies, editors and union recognition, on taking control of MGN in 1992.

Mr Montgomery said: 'It is absolutely untrue. There's a lot of allegations like that. I didn't break my word at all. What I did do was restore to editors the right to run their editorial departments. That is very important if you are going to get a highly professional operation.' He said that the pledge he gave, at the point of takeover, was that the editors remain in place, and that was accurate at the time.

'It is true the editors did change. Managements have absolutely the right to change editors. Everyone has a boss. But there are no parallels. I and the management here (at MGN) wouldn't be involved in the editorial departments at the Independent. We do not intend to get control. It was a condition set by ourselves that we should not be involved in that side (the editorial).'

He said that the proposed deal, taking a 40 per cent stake in the papers, made sense because of the way resources could be spread over more papers. 'The Independent would be nourished, not interfered with.'

No further offers or details of the proposed consortium bid, involving the editor and founder, Andreas Whittam Smith, the publishers of El Pais and La Repubblica and MGN, emerged yesterday. Tomorrow's board meeting of Newspaper Publishing, the Independent's owner, is not expected to deal with any change in ownership. Last night, a spokesman for Tony O'Reilly, the Irish media owner and chief executive of H J Heinz, said: 'We will put a proposal in due course, no matter what happens.'