Double Blow for Bella before redesign

By Ruth Addicott

Staff at H Bauer were shocked by the surprise departure of both the editor and publisher of women’s weekly Bella just weeks ahead of a redesign and the announcement of the next ABCs.

Bella editor Jo Sollis and publisher Kathy Day left suddenly last Friday. Rebecca Fleming, deputy editor of Take a Break, has been parachuted in to replace Sollis – making her Bella’s third editor in the past six months.

Sollis had only been in the chair five months and staff were said to be ‘gob-smacked’.

Bella: loses editor and publisher

Insiders said the redesign was ready and tests with focus groups had received a good response. But rivals claim sales plummeted to a new low of 375,000 before Christmas, prompting concerns about the next ABCs.

The decision is believed to have come from Bauer’s head office in Germany. Insiders claimed they knew something was up when Bauer bosses blanked Sollis at recent focus group meetings. A source said: “It is astonishing. The team were so much behind Jo and Kathy. The magazine was so much better even before the redesign and everyone was focused on delivering the new magazine. All anyone can think is that there has been some political shenanigans in Germany.”

Bella suffered a 12 per cent decline year-on-year in the ABCs last February. By August, sales had dropped from 484,986 to 444,622 -down 8 per cent on the previous year. In contrast, Best’s sales had steadied at 430,030 following investment after its takeover by The National Magazine Company.

Bauer was keen to widen Bella’s lead over Best, which introduced an eight-page celebrity section, and poached Sollis from What’s on TV, after the abrupt departure of Bella’s long-serving editor Jackie Highe.

Sollis tried to use her TV background to adapt human interest stories which had already appeared on television and sources suggested there were concerns that Bella was infringing on the territory of sister title TV Quick. Bella had always been wary of using celebrity content and given TV Quick’s sales decline it is thought there may have been a degree of overlap.

Sollis was believed to be liked by her team because she kept on staff after her arrival. Some freelances were said to have walked out in support.

Fleming joined Take a Break from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph six years ago and has been deputy editor for three.

Commenting on her departure, Take a Break editor John Dale said: “Nobody deserves it more. Her contribution to Take a Break has been enormous.”

Both Sollis and Day were prevented from talking to the press by a gagging clause in the contracts.

Carl Styants, assistant editor (subs) will take Fleming’s place as deputy editor and Adam Carpenter, assistant editor (features) becomes associate editor.

Medialand, page 17

Ruth Addicott

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