Former Reuters finance chief faces familiar restructuring and staff-soothing challenges at ailing newspaper group
Having spent the best part of last decade taking Reuters from near financial disaster to an £8.7bn mega-merger with rival Thomson, incoming Trinity Mirror chairman David Grigson has the mettle to lead a restructure of the ailing newspaper group, as well as soothe staff and shareholder discontent.
Grigson is clearly relishing the task ahead, having already toured major investors and playing a key role in the pay dispute, which ultimately resulted in Sly Bailey stepping down after a decade running the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, People and 140 regional newspapers late on Thursday.
Staff have been impressed with Grigson taking the time to visit the newsroom, even though he does not officially take over from Sir Ian Gibson as chairman until August. After the announcement of Bailey’s departure, Trinity Mirror sources claimed she only appeared in the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror newsroom “when her Net-a-Porter bags arrive”.
Grigson has form in publishing, having spent the 1990s as finance director at Emap and chairman of Emap Digital, spearheading the publisher’s move into the then fledgling internet sector.
However, he is best known for the massive restructuring effort he took on when he joined Reuters as the business information and news agency’s finance chief in 2000.
When Tom Glocer was promoted to Reuters chief executive in 2001, the pair embarked on the biggest shakeup in the group’s 150-year history, cutting more than 3,000 staff and presiding over the company’s first ever annual loss in 2002.
As analysts predicted a weakened Reuters potentially falling prey to a rival, Grigson and Glocer survived several rollercoaster years of plunging stock prices. The restructuring delivered profits and an £8.7bn mega-merger with Canadian rival Thomson in 2008.
Grigson faces similar challenges at Trinity Mirror. The publisher, the largest owner of regional newspapers in the UK, had a market capitalisation of more than £1bn when Bailey joined in 2002. It is now valued at just £80m and its share price is down 90% over the past decade to 32p.
When Grigson’s predecessor Gibson took over the chairmanship in 2005 Trinity Mirror’s share price was 550p and the publisher owned 240 regional titles. It now owns about 140.
A top priority for Grigson, aside from appointing Bailey’s replacement, is dealing with the company’s pension deficit, which ballooned to £172m in December and forced a financial restructure to cut payments. “Trinity Mirror is basically a massive pension problem that happens to have some newspapers attached to it,” said one City analyst.
After leaving Reuters in 2007 Grigson took what he described as a “dream job” of a non-executive director role at Charles Dunstone’s Carphone Warehouse, a position he held until March 2010.
He was immediately added to Ocado’s non-executive directors ahead of home delivery service’s public flotation. He also holds a non-executive director role at Standard Life, which he took on in 2009. In October of that year he made a return to the advertising industry when he agreed to take the chairman role at Creston, best known as the former owner of DLKW, the ad agency behind Halifax’s Howard Brown commercials.
His previous involvement in advertising was from 1984 to 1989 when he held senior finance roles at Saatchi & Saatchi. He left its consultancy arm in Washington to join Emap – and he undertook a four-year stint working for Esso UK at the start of the 1980s.