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Abrupt exit for Will Lewis after five years at Telegraph

By Dominic Ponsford

The architect of the Telegraph’s online revolution Will Lewis has abruptly left the business six months after he was appointed to the new job of managing director digital.

His exit comes just over a month after he swept the board with six British Press Awards for Telegraph Media Group – including personally taking the top prize of journalist of the year for his role in exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Lewis left the company yesterday after five years amid questions over the business plan for the 50-strong digital development department he set up in Euston in November when he was made managing director digital as well as group editor in chief.

At the time he said: ‘We spent quite a while thinking about it. It’s about setting up a new base camp and being able to draw on the resource here in Victoria and to use the brand if we choose and to use the content if we choose as well. While innovation continues in Victoria, we will take a different path to hunt down digital revenues in the new operation in Euston.”

Press Gazette understands that his departure comes amid concern from his boss Murdoch MacLennan that a proper business plan for Euston had not been forthcoming.

However Telegraph Media Group remains committed to the Euston project. Senior management there will now report in to Telegraph Media Group chief executive MacLennan – as will the daily and Sunday newspaper editors.

His central achievement as editor has been leading the integration of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and web editorial teams into one operation with a massively increased emphasis on online coverage. This was accompanied by more than 150 editorial redundancies.

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He joined the Telegraph in August 2005 as City editor, after three and a half years at The Sunday Times, where he was business editor. He was quickly promoted to deputy editor of the Telegraph. He was made Daily Telegraph editor in October 2006.

At the time of Lewis’ promotion to digital MD MacLennan said: “I am delighted that Will has taken up this vital challenge. For the last three years, he has done a first class job editing The Daily Telegraph whilst successfully integrating our print and digital editorial operations. Will also orchestrated undoubtedly the biggest story of the decade, our highlighting of the systematic abuse of MPs’ expenses.

“I believe now is the time to fast forward to the next stage of our digital transformation. Using the Telegraph’s powerful brand and reputation, Will has been charged with building a digital unit designed to capitalise on cutting edge ideas, driving new revenue streams by better serving our customers.”

Whatever has happened since then, Lewis has clearly now fallen out of favour with MacLennan.

A senior Telegraph executive told the Financial Times last night: “Euston is a lavish exercise and, to be honest, after six months there is not much to show for it.”

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