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April 28, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:13am

Evening Standard chief executive Mike Soutar steps down during pandemic after six months in role

By Freddy Mayhew

Evening Standard chief executive Mike Soutar will step down at the end of May after six months in the role, which he is the first to have held.

Soutar has spent most of his career working in magazines and is co-founder of Shortlist Media, which rebranded as Stylist Media after free men’s magazine Shortlist closed in print in 2018.

He took up the newly created CEO role at the Standard in October last year, after the paper made back-to-back losses totalling more than £23m.

Soutar said: “In the last few weeks I’ve taken time to reflect on my own ambitions and plans and it is on that basis that I have made the decision to step away to pursue other business interests.

“I will remain a passionate supporter of the Standard and its brilliant people.”

The coronavirus has had a significant impact on the Evening Standard, which as a free newspaper is reliant on advertising for income and distributing copies to commuters at transport hubs in the city.

The virus has caused an advertising downturn as events are cancelled and advertisers face their own financial concerns, while government lockdown measures have forced people to stay at home.

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Pre-crisis the Evening Standard put out about 800,000 copies. This has now fallen to 500,000, with the paper now delivering door-to-door for the first time in its 193-year history.

It has also suspended its weekly magazine supplement and furloughed a number of staff, while others take pay cuts.

The Standard announced last year that it was merging its print and online teams.

In a recent email to staff, seen by Press Gazette, editor George Osborne said the title would “pivot towards a digital first future” as the business faced an “unprecedented crisis” brought about by the coronavirus.

He said the print and digital platforms would be brought “closer together” with the aim of boosting online output and maintaining the newspaper.

David Tomchak has been appointed to the new role of digital publisher, with a focus on product innovations, while Standard deputy editor Charlotte Ross is leading on cross-platform content.

The Evening Standard is owned by Russian multi-millionaire Evgeny Lebedev, who also owns the Independent.

Picture: ESI Media

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