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April 21, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:15am

Archant CEO and editor-in-chief among senior departures following Newsquest takeover

By Charlotte Tobitt

Archant chief executive Lorna Willis and editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford are among several executives leaving the publisher following Newsquest’s takeover.

Newsquest also said it will reorganise Archant’s titles into its own structure as it seeks to create a “truly sustainable local media business”.

Newsquest, the UK’s second largest regional publisher, bought Archant, the fourth largest, for an undisclosed sum in March.

Willis (pictured), who was appointed chief executive in March 2021, has worked at Archant for 12 years including as digital sales director, then executive director for digital, data and insight, and finally chief client officer.

Her task was to build Archant back up after it was bought by private equity firm Rcapital in August 2020 in a deal that saved it from liquidation but saw shareholders wiped out and a £50m pension fund deficit taken over by the government.

She told Press Gazette last year her job was to “make sure we put ourselves in the best possible position so that we get the right forever home”.

Willis will leave Archant at the end of April, as will chief finance officer Nick Steven-Jones.

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In an email to Archant staff, Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker praised them for leading the publisher “with exemplary professionalism and commitment in challenging times”.

Editor-in-chief Clifford also joined Archant in March last year, after leaving the same role at JPI Media following its own buyout by David Montgomery’s National World.

Also leaving Archant are Jonathan Cropley, managing director of Archant’s magazines, at the end of May, and head of product and platform Ryan Cousins in June.

Vincent Boni, managing director of Newsquest’s south coast titles including in Hampshire, Dorset and Salisbury, will become interim managing director for Archant in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and project lead for the integration of the two publishers until the end of the year when he will resume his previous role.

Staff were also told of a plan to align Archant’s regional news and magazine operations within Newsquest.

Archant’s Hertfordshire and London businesses, which include the Ham & High, Ilford Recorder and Herts Advertiser, plus the Kent Life magazine will become part of Newsquest South East.

Archant’s Devon and Somerset news titles including the Exmouth Journal and North Somerset Times, plus the Somerset Life magazine, will come under the management of Newsquest Somerset.

Archant’s Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey magazines will come under the Newsquest South division.

Yorkshire Life, Derbyshire Life, Cheshire Life and Lancashire Life will be a separate unit managed under Newsquest North. Cotswold Life will join Newsquest South Midlands.

The digital, data and insights team will be incorporated within Newsquest’s central function and Faure Walker said “we see a good opportunity for the wider business to benefit from this expertise”.

Archant’s core regional business in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, which includes the East Anglian Daily Times and Norwich Evening News, will continue to operate as it is.

Faure Walker said: “We are excited by the opportunities that come from the combination of Archant and Newsquest in building a truly sustainable local media business that empowers its communities and its staff to thrive.

“It is important to us that we continue to provide a deep and well resourced focus on the individual local markets recognising that each of our markets have different characteristics.

“We are therefore going to structure the Archant business to enable us to harness the greater scale of the combined group whilst also facilitating a concerted focus on each local market. This will enhance local and regional publishing opportunities and provide greater scope for career development of Archant staff.”

Faure Walker said the employment terms and conditions of Archant staff would not be affected by any of the changes.

Picture: Warren Page / Archant

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