Two updates on Trinity Mirror stories to report:
- The Whitchurch Herald could be saved despite last week’s announcement that it would be one of three weeklies in the North West and Wales division to close – if a buyer is found. ‘It has been postponed to enable owners Trinity Mirror North West and Wales to consider new approaches from parties interested in purchasing the newspaper title,’ said the company.
- Meanwhile, a dispute over Trinity Mirror executives’ share awards continues. Following last week’s announcement that two additional weekly newspaper titles are to close, with around 15 jobs threatened overall at Trinity Mirror subsidiary Media Wales – one division of TM North West and Wales – the NUJ questioned share ‘handouts’ to executives – worth over £800,000 in total, it claimed. But Trinity Mirror denied they were of any value.
“There have been some developments in the last few days so we have decided to continue producing the Whitchurch Herald while discussions with interested parties take place. We will keep readers and advertisers informed of developments,” said Carl Wood, Trinity Mirror Cheshire publishing director.
We’ll go through this one point by point – please do get in touch with additional points to raise:
1. The NUJ claimed that share awards to directors had not been publicised when a pay freeze and bonus cut across the company – including directors – was announced in November 2008.
TM said it was not new information and it had always been publicly available online.
The NUJ now says: “The fact is that Trinity Mirror employees were not told directly at the time of the pay freeze about this additional remuneration. It was merely stated that the pay freeze applied to directors too.”
2. The NUJ challenged share awards made to Sly Bailey (chief executive) and Vijay Vaghela (finance director) in April 2009.
TM said the share awards ‘have no value’ at present and were provisionally granted until targets are met.
The NUJ now says: “We have not suggested that the directors have already received payment for the value of the shares. In the circumstances, we call on the directors to confirm that they will decline to accept any financial advantage from this share award.”
3. The NUJ also claimed that the three directors – Bailey, Vaghela and legal director Paul Vickers – exercised an option to ‘buy’ more shares on June 29 this year – for no purchase price, before selling them.
TM said: that the shares sold in June were part of the 2007 bonus, which had been deferred until now:
“[P]art of the bonus paid to senior managers is deferred for 12 months and paid in shares. It is the deferred shares from the 2007 bonus that have just been released.
“The only shares that were sold were those that the company required to be sold to pay the PAYE tax liabilities on the value of the shares. None of that money went to the directors and they still hold all the other shares released to them.”
The NUJ now says: “We call on the directors to return this part of their 2007 bonus as it was paid after the imposition of the pay freeze.”
Journalism.co.uk asked TM about the 2007 bonus arrangement: why are the directors required to sell these shares in this way?
“The release of shares is treated as a payment for tax purposes, and – like all other payments – the tax is deducted at the time the payment is made,” a spokesperson said.
And why was the share award system not publicised at the time of the pay freeze?
“All the information about the share award referred to in the NUJ’s press release was already in the public domain before the announcement about pay freezes in November 2008,” said the spokesperson.