Reach chief executive Simon Fox to step down

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, July 29, 2019

Simon Fox will step down as chief executive of publishing group Reach next month.

The company’s board confirmed today (29 July) that Fox will leave the company on 16 August and will be succeeded as chief executive by Jim Mullen, who was most recently chief executive of Ladbroke Coral and whose other roles include directorships at News International and 11 years in the advertising industry.

Reach chairman Nick Prettejohn said: “I would like to thank Simon for the great job he has done over the past seven years.

“As the first-half results demonstrate, he leaves Reach in very good health, with a strong balance sheet and real progress in developing the business for the future. We have an excellent successor in Jim, and I am pleased to have a seamless transition.”

Fox added: “There is never an ideal time to leave an organisation, but if there were it would be now. The integration of the Express and Star has been successfully completed, digital growth is accelerating, and our trading and cash position are strong. I am proud of what has been achieved and will provide Jim with whatever support is required to ensure a smooth handover.”

Mullen said he was joining the business at “an exciting time” and is looking forward to building upon the company’s digital transformation.

The company reported a pre-tax profit of £58.2m in its first-half results, for the period ending 30 June 2019, compared to a £113.5m loss in the same period last year.

Revenue was down by 0.3% to £352.6m, which the group said benefitted from last year’s acquisition of Northern & Shell’s publishing assets, while like-for-like revenue was down by 6.3%, an improvement on the like-for-like fall of 7.2% in the first half of 2018.

Group print was down by 8.2%, with “the more resilient” circulation declining by 3.9% and “the more structurally challenged” advertising declining by 21.1%.

The group said acquisition synergies of £6m have been delivered and that it is on target to deliver annualised savings of at least £15m in 2019 and £22m in 2020, ahead of the £20m previously signalled. Additionally, it has achieved structural cost savings of £5m and said it is on target to deliver a £10m commitment for 2019.

“I am pleased with our robust performance in the first half of the year and with the strengthening of our digital audience and revenue growth in quarter two,” said Fox.

“We remain focused on cost and cash management resulting in net debt of only £12.9m at the end of June. Our first half performance provides a solid platform from which to continue to deliver upon the three pillars of our strategy: optimise, grow and commercialise.”

The board said that the optimisation of its print business provides it with the necessary resources to accelerate its digital audience and revenue, which will enable long-term sustainable growth, and that it anticipates trading for the year to be in line with market expectations.

Earlier this month Reach confirmed that it is in the early stages of discussions in relation to acquiring “certain of JPI Media’s assets”, which include the i newspaper and more than 100 regional news brands.

The group has announced an interim dividend of 2.5p per share, an increase of 5.5%. Its share price was up by nearly 5% to 90.3p in early trading but has since settled down to 86.9p at the time of writing.

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