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Sky News: Trinity Mirror approached Mecom for merger

January 12th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Local media

Sky News blogger Mark Kleinman reports today that Trinity Mirror made a secret merger approach to Mecom, one of Europe’s biggest regional newspaper publishers.

According to the Sky News report, Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Daily Mirror and around 150 regional titles in the UK, approached Mecom with an all-share merger offer in November but was rebuffed.

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror told Journalism.co.uk today that it doesn’t comment on market speculation.

Mecom has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Full Sky News blog post at this link.

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Reuters: Newspaper chief Montgomery “forced out” of publishing group

Former News of the World editor David Montgomery has announced he will retire from Mecom, the European publishing group he founded in 2000, after coming under pressure from shareholders to quit.

According to a report by Reuters, current CEO Montgomery will leave the company – which owns more than 300 printed titles and 200 websites – in January in response to the concerns of shareholders who are “fed up with ongoing high debt levels and falling sales”.

Montgomery slashed costs and jobs as he sought to drive his local-newspaper businesses in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Poland into the digital age in the face of the industry’s worst-ever recession.

In a statement on Mecom’s website confirming Montgomery’s move, the chief executive was said to have the “complete confidence of the board”. It added that a search process will be conducted by the board to find his successor.

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Kristine Lowe: Time to support David Montgomery?

January 27th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

At the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that Mecom CEO David Montgomery faced an investor rebellion.

Kristine Lowe, who has followed the activities of Mecom (which owns 300 newspapers) since its early days, shares her thoughts on her blog, linking into content elsewhere.

“My hunch is that it’s [the rebellion] nothing to cheer for,” she says.

“[I]f we look at the objections against his leadership brought forth after last year’s revolt, and Mecom’s continuing poor stock market performance this year, it seems to me that the man who gained a reputation as such a brutal cost-cutter during his Mirror-days is simply not a brutal enough cost-cutter for the investors in question.

She also notes that örsen, the Danish financial daily, is reporting that Mecom shareholders are disappointed that share prices have not improved more.

Full post at this link…

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MediaGuardian: Mecom pushes ahead with niche paid content

January 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

David Montgomery’s Mecom newspaper group will put niche, specific content at the heart of its plans to charge for news online.

Montgomery, who said he is confident that a carefully planned digital strategy could make up for the a predicted shortfall in print ad spend, said its new online paid content strategy would not focus on charging for general or international news.

Full story at this link…

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The Independent, Mecom – and what David Montgomery thought of it all

April 30th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

More twists and turns in the Independent and Mecom sagas today.

Independent News and Media (at time of writing) has failed to reach an agreement with bondholders – the company was meant to reach a deal on the £179 million bond by May 18, but is now seeking a ‘standstill’ period.

Meanwhile newspaper publisher Mecom has secured yet another convenant extension, raising about £140 million in new equity from shareholders, but also announced 500 job cuts.

The news has triggered a memory for blogger Kristine Lowe of a journalism conference in 1997 2007, where Mecom boss David Montgomery responded to an assertion by the Telegraph that there was no reason for the Independent or Guardian to exist:

“I didn’t say that. The Telegraph did. But in general I think companies should make money. I think it’s demeaning for people to work for companies that don’t,” he told Lowe at the time.

How very apt.

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MediaGuardian: Mecom to sell Norwegian titles

February 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Mecom, former Mirror Group man David Montgomery’s European newspaper group, is to shed some of its Norwegian papers to raise £50 million in funds.

Full story at this link…

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MediaGuardian: Montgomery empire has two months to solve financial woes

December 23rd, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Former Mirror Group boss David Montgomery secured a two-month stay of execution for his ‘media empire’, as it ‘tries to renegotiate its debts amid rising concern about its future,’ reports the Guardian.

“Mecom, which has debts of almost £600m, compared with a stockmarket value of £13.5m, said it was in talks with its banks about amending its overdraft ‘so as to provide financial stability in the medium term.'”

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Mecom’s Danish arm will cut costs with open-source CMS

December 23rd, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Mecom-owned Berlingske Media, Denmark’s biggest daily newspaper publisher, has decided to ditch its costly online publishing system for open-source software Drupal.

As Journalism.co.uk reported earlier this year, Berlingske Media already runs some of its sites on Drupal – a free content management system (CMS).

After a long period of deliberation, the Danish division of Mecom, the ailing pan-European media group headed by former Mirror-boss David Montgomery, has decided to make Drupal its online publishing system of choice.

“It is no secret that economy means a lot to us, but if the system had been unstable and not user-friendly, the price would not have been decisive,” Berlingske’s CEO Lisbeth Knudesen told eJour (in Danish).

She particularly praised Drupal for being so much more flexible than traditional publishing platforms.

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Sunday Times: David Montgomery steps down as Mecom executive chairman

November 17th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Jobs, Newspapers

David Montgomery has relinquished his role as executive chairman of Mecom in a bid to halt falling share prices, which have dropped by 97 per cent in the last year.

Montgomery becomes chief executive of the publishing group in the move.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Behind the spin of Mecom’s half-year results

August 27th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Even former Mirror boss David Montgomery, who has a reputation as a ferocious cost-cutter, admits his new pan-European newspaper group Mecom cannot cost-cut its way out of a recession.

Shares in the company tumbled on the London Stock Exchange last week after the newspaper group failed to impress the market with its interim half-year results.

Perhaps jittery from all the recent talk of recession, investors did not appreciate the highly geared company’s reports of ‘worsening economic conditions’.

Despite Montgomery’s assurances that his business model is very different from that of UK newspapers – with subscription rates as high as 96 per cent in some of the countries Mecom operates in – alert observers noted that advertising still makes up 52 per cent of revenue.

No more title-specific news desks?
As widely reported, this does of course mean employees at the company, already disgruntled about redundancies on the table, will have to prepare for an even tighter ship in times ahead.

But there is more to this story: in a phone conference with employee representatives last week, Montgomery is reported to have admitted the company cannot cost-cut its way out of a recession; and emphasised that new ways of working and new streams of revenue were necessary for newspapers to have a profitable future.

He specifically highlighted two areas as key to the company’s future strategy: digital expansion, where its Norwegian division, Edda Media, is leading the pack with 9 per cent of its revenues from digital operations; and the media house strategy pioneered by Lisbeth Knudsen, the CEO of its Danish operation.

As Journalism.co.uk previously reported, Knudsen has reorganised her company’s titles into ‘verticals’ that deliver copy not only across platforms, but also titles – be they broadsheet, tabloid or regional newspapers. This, apparently, is to become the standard for all future media house strategy in Mecom.

Innovation exchange

“Mecom’s German division for instance – comprised of Berliner Zeitung, a national; Netzeitung, an online-only newspaper, and various magazine titles – should pay heed to these words. This model might be seen as a good fit for Germany,” an employee representative told me.

Mecom has also established an agreement that allows all Mecom countries to exchange software solutions developed in one country to another Mecom country without charge. The Reader’s Newspaper, a citizen journalism portal previously described by Journalism.co.uk, for instance, is to be exported from Norway to Denmark and Poland.

Another Norwegian export is a new range of hyper-local websites and freesheets Mecom is launching in Poland: Moje Miastro – a concept that has been operating for some time in Norway. The newspaper group, often portrayed as cash-starved and too much in debt, has also entered into an agreement to buy Edtytor Sp. z o.o., a regional newspaper business in Olsztyn. It has told employee representatives that the Polish expansion in new products was to blame for the dip in profits from its Polish arm.

Beware the ghost of recession

In other words, keeping an eye on innovations in the various parts of Mecom’s far-flung empire, can give useful pointers to what we can expect on group level.

Unfortunately for Mecom, a less fortunate trend spreading through the many European countries the company operates in is the ghost of recession.

In this age of globalisation, operating in more than one European country is no safe hedge against a market downturn, despite Montgomery indicating otherwise.

As Peter Kirwan recently wrote in his Press Gazette blog: “[W]hen it comes to the ad recession, we’re at the end of beginning, not the beginning of the end.”

In the summer months we have seen the footprints of recession appear in new territories such as Norway and Holland, causing the job and property classifieds markets to shrink – a sure sign that worse is yet to come.

For Mecom, the question is which is strongest, which will have the final say: the ability to come up with new innovative ways of doing business with less resources, or the clammy hand of a jittery market in the throes of recession?

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