FT journalists halt pay talks after news former editor Lionel Barber was paid £1.92m in 2019

Lionel Barber pay

Former FT editor Lionel Barber received pay and pension benefits worth £1.92m in 2019 as the FT Ltd (the title’s UK-based corporate entity) reported a dip in profit to £1.89m from £8.2m in 2018.

News of the payment (contained in accounts published at Companies House) has caused the FT’s NUJ chapel to suspend its negotiations over pay.

In a statement, union officials asked for clear answers about pay for senior staff and said: “We ask for full transparency about all senior executive pay and performance targets, and demand that in future company accounts are shared with union reps well in advance of publication.”

The FT Ltd published accounts do not reflect the full picture for FT Group, which is owned by Nikkei, as it does not include all of the title’s joint venture and overseas income.

According to an internal performance briefing, FT Group made £408m in 2019 (up £24m) and operating profit was level year on year at £28m.

Press Gazette understands that the reduction in pre-tax profits for FT Ltd was mainly due to costs associated with the move of HQ to Bracken House, which included one-off dual running costs for two buildings to ensure a smooth transition.

Press Gazette understands that the FT’s performance in 2020 has been better than expected, meaning that staff who took pay cuts earlier in the year as the pandemic took hold, have had them repaid. Hits to advertising and events mean the FT is likely to make a small loss in the current year.

The FT also invested in a new office in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2019 creating 100 engineering jobs to drive website developments.

And the accounts reveal the FT has acquired Xoomworks Ltd, a company which it signed an agreement with in 2018 to provide a technology product development centre in Bulgaria. The price was £2.9m and the deal was completed in July 2020.

A spokesperson for the FT said: “After 35 years at the FT, including 14 successful years as editor, Mr Barber was paid a total of £1.9m in 2019, including his contractual, performance-related pay and a further, contractual payment in lieu of notice.

“This resulted in a one-off higher than usual total figure, which is disclosed in the FT Ltd accounts. Those accounts have already been filed at Companies House, well in advance of the December deadline.”

Barber received £1.4m in pay and £502,000 in compensation for loss of office as well as a £10,000 payment into his pension scheme.

Last month Barber wrote in Press Gazette about his achievement over 14 years as FT editor in taking the title from “bad shape” and heavily loss-making to a successful digital-first news operation with a growing reader base.

The article included a dig at NUJ colleagues when he said: “Transition to a ‘digital-first’ model would require wholesale changes in working practices – no easy task in a newsroom where the NUJ chapel’s default position was ‘Nyet’.”

Yesterday Press Gazette published unique research on the most popular subscription news websites in the world which revealed that the FT now has 945,000 digital subscribers, making it the 6th most popular English language subscription news website in the world.

The FT employs some 2,300 people worldwide, including 700 journalists.

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