Competition authority probes Trinity's N&S deal

Trinity Mirror has been served a 'hold separate' order by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), pending an investigation into risks to press plurality resulting from its acquisition of titles from Northern & Shell.

The order, issued today (2 March) was made under the Enterprise Act 2002 in order to keep the N&S titles, including the Express and Star newspapers, operated separately from Trinity’s existing stable.

Responding to the order, the Trinity Mirror board said: “The board continues to believe that there will be no reduction in media plurality as a result of the acquisition, as each newspaper brand will continue with its current editorial positioning, and that there will not be any detrimental impact on competition as a result of the acquisition.”

At a general meeting in London on Tuesday, 27 February, 99% of Trinity’s shareholders approved the £127.6m deal to acquire N&S’s publishing assets.

The hold separate order was reportedly expected by Trinity due to the nature of the acquisition, and the company has put in place an interim management team to smooth the transition while the entities are prohibited from merging fully.

Former chief operating officer Mark Hollinshead has now been confirmed as part of the interim team, following reports in the trade press. Hollinshead left Trinity in 2015 and is now the head of his own PR consultancy, Hollicom.

Joining Hollinshead on the team will be Trinity’s former group editorial director Neil Benson, the Independent’s former finance director Andrew Round and Trinity’s former group financial controller Paul Wilks.

PrintWeek understands that Trinity’s main focus is now on accommodating the CMA’s investigation, and the publisher does not anticipate any problems with the process.

Several changes were also made to the editorial teams on Trinity’s roster. Hugh Whittow will retire as editor of the Daily Express and Daily Star editor-in-chief Dawn Neesom will leave to pursue a freelance career.

Gary Jones has been appointed to Whittow’s position at the Express and will subsequently be replaced as editor of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People by Peter Willis. Alison Philips will become editor of the Daily Mirror.

Jon Clark will take up post as editor-in-chief of the Daily Star and Caroline Waterston will serve as deputy editor-in-chief across the Express and Star titles, moving over from the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.

Trinity chief executive Simon Fox said: “I have every confidence that the new appointments will be brilliant in their new roles, and they will know that we are fully committed to the editorial independence of all of our titles, and they have the freedom to operate accordingly.

“Today marks the start of a new chapter for our business. Together we are now part of a much larger organisation, with nine national newspaper titles, over 110 regional newspaper titles, three paid celebrity magazines, and over 60 websites.

“We are reaching 45 million people every month – 19 million through print and 34 million through digital. Our reach will be our greatest strength, and our readers and advertisers will benefit hugely from our combined presence.”

According to Unite the Union’s national officer for the media industry Louisa Bull, changes to editorial and administrative staff are Trinity’s current priority and the merging entities’ print operations will not be affected as yet, though “urgent consultation” had been taking place between the union and Trinity executives over concerns for workers.


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