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October 11, 2013

Steve Auckland is out as David Montgomery takes full control of Local World

By Dominic Ponsford

Steve Auckland has resigned as chief executive of Local World after less than a year in the job.

Executive chairman David Montgomery will now take full control of the company moving into the chief executive position.

Auckland was speaking last night at a Media Society event in London about the future of local journalism where he made no mention of today's announcement. In fact he was speaking about Local World's future plans. 

Auckland was previously group chief executive of Northcliffe Media before it was sold to Local World, a group which was created by the merger of Northcliffe with Illiffe News and Media. Trinity Mirror also has a 20 per cent stake in Local World.

There has been speculation within Local World that former Metro chief executive Auckland was being sidelines in recent months.

In July, chairman Montgomery sent a note out to all Northcliffe managing directors revealing plans for a daily conference call with Montgomery as chair. One insider noted that it was the first time such a note had come out from Montgomery rather than Auckland.

Also in July, it was announced that executive directors Rich Mead and Karen Wall – both seen as key associates of Auckland – had left the business.

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In an email to colleagues today Auckland suggested there had been previous "ambiguity" over who was leading the company.

He said: "This move is in the best interest of all parties in that it gives David clear and direct control with yourselves and leaves no ambiguity between the central teams and your operations.

"I will obviously greatly miss all of you. DMGT gave me the dream job of being able to set up a team in exactly the style that I feel a company should be run. It wasn’t perfect but it allowed us to secure what I believe to be the most talented operators within the business.

"Many of those operators were already in Northcliffe and we had to attract one or two experienced people with other local media group experience. We were a very aligned and motivated team and you produced some exceptional results in a very short space of time. I think that’s now running through the rest of the business and you are responsible for the great numbers this year. You should take all the credit for this.

"As I’ve always said, from the ones who were at the René Carayol conference to the Allan Leighton conference, it’s the people who make the products, drive the strategies and create the teams. You’ve all done that so well under my tenure and have exceeded my wildest expectations. I hope you feel your career and your teams have benefitted, and you’ve exceeded your own expectations.

"It’s been an honour and a pleasure to work with you. Thanks for putting your faith in myself."

In an official statement Auckland said: “Thanks to everyone who has supported me over the last two & a half years. It’s been an amazing time, I just can’t believe it’s gone so quickly. I now leave a business with a great vision and an even more talented team of leaders to deliver it. I always said that people are the most valuable resource to any business.  

"We’ve been able to assemble a highly skilled, experienced and motivated team who have outperformed the local media business making Local World even more desirable to investors and employees. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to work with them. With David assembling a new central management team, it’s a great time for me to move on.”

Following Montgomery’s move to chief executive, Andrew Wilson of Local World shareholder Artefact Partners has been made non-executive chairman.

He said: “We are grateful to Steve for his work through the first months of Local World in guiding a smooth transition of ownership as well as optimising the performance of our operations. 

"The board is encouraged by the performance to date of the new company and is united behind David Montgomery and the executive team in seizing the opportunity for Local World to re-invigorate UK local media with a transformation strategy, underpinned by investment in technology and people.”

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