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March 9, 2011

John Fry to step down as Johnston Press boss

By Oliver Luft

John Fry is to step down from his role as chief executive of Johnston Press little over two years after joining the regional publishing business.

Johnston Press issued a statement this morning saying Fry had ‘notified the board of his intention to step down’and that the process to find his successor had started.

The annoucement came as Johnston Press revealed this morning that it had suffered a year-on-year drop in adjusted pre-tax profit of almost a third last year.

The company said pre-tax profit for 2010 fell 29.6 per cent year on year to £30.5m from the £43.3m it made in the previous 12 months – overall revenue dropped six per cent to £398.1m last year.

Annoucement of Fry’s departure comes a week after Johnston Press revealed that Grant Murray would join the company from Guardian Media Group as its new chief financial officer, succeeding Stuart Paterson when he stands down from the company’s board in May.

Johnston Press said Fry would leave the business by March 2012, giving sufficient time to ‘to facilitate a smooth handover’to a new chief executive.

Fry became chief executive of Johnston Press in January 2009, joining from the Archant newspaper group as replacement for previous boss Tim Bowdler.

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Johnston Press revealed last April that Fry was paid almost one million pounds for his first year at the helm of the regional publishing group.

He received a total remuneration of £959,000 in 2009, which included a salary of £525,000, cash and deferred share bonuses worth £420,000, with £14,000 of other benefits.

Over the same period Johnston Press, which publishes the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, recorded a fall in pre-tax profits of 56 per cent to £43.3m as it wrote down the value of its newspaper titles and closed presses in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Under Fry Johnston Press was forced to refinance is debt facility of £485m, in August 2009, albeit at a greatly increased cost of borrowing.

In addition, it cancelled the proposed sale of its Irish titles, as it was unable to find a buyer willing to meet its valuation of the businesses.

Figures supplied in the group’s annual report show that it also reduced headcount by 14 per cent to a total staff of 6,146 employees over that period.

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