A very different media group is going to emerge from what was Avusa, and has now reverted to the Times Media Group under new CEO Andrew Bonamour.
Bonamour is going to ditch the group’s entertainment and retail assets. You can expect Exclusive Books to be sold, probably to another retail group which can extract value by sharing back office functions, as well as NuMetro, neither of which have produced good profit or fitted well with core media assets. As for Gallo, if there isn’t a buyer (and it is hard to see who might buy this loss-maker), expect it to be mothballed, since the only real value there appears to be in the archive.
Bonamour will focus on the core media assets and invest in their growth, digitisation and spread into the rest of the continent. The Sunday Times is the core, money-printing asset, now bolstered by its sister-papers, the Times, Sowetan and Sunday World. He also has 50% of BDFM, which houses the valuable but underperforming business media assets, like Business Day, Financial Mail, Summit TV and the new online presence, BDLive.
Bonamour sees his role as “capital allocation”: directing where resources are going and then leaving it up to the media experts to make use of them to produce growth. He is cutting layers of people and structure out of head office. This puts the two “editors-in-chief/publisher/kingpins”, Peter Bruce and Mike Robertson, in the key seats of power and influence. This might explain how and why these two have both moved swiftly in recent weeks to consolidate their positions as head of TMG Media and BDFM respectively.
Bruce seized control of the titles of BD Editor, BDFM Editor-in-Chief, and BDFM Publisher. This allows him to drive consolidation, change and expansion in this group, pulling together all the assets (such as Summit TV, to be renamed BD TV) which have operated separately, make the radical BD move into compact format, do something to try and save the declining FM and lead another push to get their products into the rest of the continent. This is an ambitious plan.
Robertson cleaned out the Sunday Times, pushing aside editor Ray Hartley, putting in his place the young Phylicia Ophelt (partly to stop her being poached by Bruce) and got rid of about 10 people, including some old hands. Phylicia added one or two to the pyre, people she had clashed with in her torrid past, leaving the staff make-up looking very different. Some say this was a cleaning out of dead wood, others say it was Robertson ensuring he was surrounded by his most loyal acolytes.
One thing seems certain: at the end all of this, it will be a very different company: small, focused, with strong assets – and probably better positioned to take on the challenges of the changing world of newspapers.