Newsquest's 'buyout king' set to retire

Jim Brown, the buyout king of regional newspapers, is to retire on 31 July.

Brown, now the non-executive chairman of Newsquest Media Group, part of US-based Gannett, has had a long career in the newspaper industry, distinguished by his skill, along with partners Paul Davidson and John Pfail, at buying up rival groups.

He led a management buyout of Reed Regional Newspapers in January 1996, to form Newsquest and followed that with the acquisition in 1997 of Westminster Press from Pearson. Newsquest was itself acquired by Gannett in July 1999.

Further buys of Newscom and the Dimbleby newspapers followed. His negotiating skills were last used in this year’s buy-up of the Herald newspapers and the Evening Times, in Glasgow, from SMG.

The business has more than doubled in size and now publishes more than 300 local and regional newspapers in the UK.

Brown started his career as a journalist, switching to management when he joined Thomson Regional Newspapers in 1964, where he was a main board director. He moved to Reed Regional Newspapers in 1986.

Brown became chairman of Newsquest in February 1996, and has been with the company for 17 years, serving as chief executive from April 1990 to August 2001.

He told Press Gazette that when he started as a reporter on the Ayrshire Post, he never imagined he would get as far as he has today.

“But at the end of the day you have got to have the ambition to keep going. I have had to take career risks. In my time I have lived in 12 different homes, of which 10 represented career moves. Each time you move, there is a risk.”

It had been very good luck to work with Gannett, he said. “They have really left us alone to run the business. To this day we still don’t have a single American over here. It’s a terrific vote of confidence in the management team.”

Brown goes out on a high. “It’s been great fun,” he chuckled.

By Jean Morgan

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