The winds of change blast through Times Media

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.

5 thoughts on “The winds of change blast through Times Media

  1. Once, not that long ago, this company was decent-sized shareholder in M-Net and MTN i.e it owned some of the finest “digital” assets in the country. Management and owners managed to asset strip the company and leave it with the dregs of a print business that is worth less every minute the clock ticks. The one common thread through this suicidal mess is …. Robertson.

  2. Oh, Anton! First names for women (especially a “young” one) but surnames for old men?
    As for a torrid past, show me a journalist who doesn’t have one and I’ll show you a tame amaneunsis

    • Apologies. Though to be fair it was full names for most right through, including Ms O, and one reference to a first name.

      • Sorry that doesn’t get you out of the stew.. Your comments re the new Sunday Times editor were sexist and astonishingly awful. You should be squirming and write her a public apology! And you an old leftie to boot!!! Shameful! dm

  3. Oh people, really! Nitpicking the author over imagined gender/age/race bias? Why don’t you go and troll on News24 where this destructive chatter is more apt.
    If you want to comment keep it to the content of the article. Ad hominem is so last century.
    Good point Redgecko about the Naspers and MTN assets, but then this company has had a litany of abysmal CEOs in the past decade. Robertson is a publisher, not a corporate shaker. I doubt he would have had much influence at all on the C suite and board decisions.

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