New editor chosen for 'Observer': 'Guardian' deputy to succeed Trelford

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(First Edition)

JONATHAN FENBY, deputy editor of the Guardian and a former home editor of the Independent, is to be the new editor of the Observer following its acquisition by the Guardian and Manchester Evening News Group, writes Michael Leapman.

The announcement was made yesterday as the deal for GMEN's purchase of the ailing Sunday broadsheet from its former owner Lonrho was finalised at a price of pounds 27m. Mr Fenby will replace Donald Trelford, editor of the Observer for the past 18 years.

The Observer made a loss of pounds 8.7m in the year ended last September, and its share of the Sunday market has been steadily declining. Its March circulation was 504,000.

Harry Roche, chairman and chief executive of GMEN, said that the 'independence and traditions' of the Observer would be maintained. Its liberal political stance is very close to that of the Guardian.

'The paper will be edited independently of the Guardian,' Mr Fenby said last night. 'But it will keep its liberal traditions - don't expect any sudden lurch to the left or right.'

Hugo Young, chairman of the Scott Trust - the custodian of the Guardian's editorial independence - said that the trust would also ensure the independence of the Observer.

Lonrho has owned the Observer since 1981 and never made any money from it. The sale to GMEN was agreed two weeks ago, after a bid from the Independent was rejected.

The deal has to be approved by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, who has invited comments from interested parties by 21 May. Until he has given his approval the sale cannot go ahead and Mr Trelford will remain as editor.