The incoming Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings has promised there won’t be any major diversion in the company’s strategy following John Fry’s departure to replace longstanding Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler.
In an interview with the Eastern Daily Press – a flagship Archant title – Jeakings, formerly Archant’s group finance director, is confident that he inherits a business capable of getting through the lean months ahead, He says:
John leaves behind a very strong management team, a business that is in the process of bringing its growing digital activities into its mainstream, a magazine division that is unique in the industry and that huge potential.
Privately-owned Archant is performing “slightly better, and in some areas much better” than its regional rivals, he says, and has lower debt. So to “suddenly change things around would be illogical”.
So no wholesale changes just yet. But Archant is, like Johnston, Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe Media and Newsquest, heavily exposed to the classified print display advertising market, which is suffering a severe downturn. Northcliffe owner DMGT said last week that its revenue from property ads in July and August were 45 per cent down on the same period last year.
Archant’s own profits for the first half of this year dipped to £13.1.m – down from £14.5m in 2007 – and Jeakings sees no immediate signs of this improving, predicting that the company’s fortunes would not see “material improvement this side of the end of 2009”.