If you were a quoted media company and lost 20 per cent of your sales in a year, without a major disposal, the directors would be queueing on the nearest window sill to meet their fate.
But Haymarket, which publishes Campaign, Marketing, Autocar and Management Today did just that last year, sales dropping from £273m to £226m in 2009.
That Haymarket only lost £3.6m after paying the Heseltines a £2.5m dividend is testament to its cost-cutting. The company shed 119 jobs, taking numbers down to 1169.
And Heseltine has been here before. Haymarket got off to a rocky start in the 1960s when its glossy men’s magazine Town lost a fortune and then suffered mightily in the 1970s when major revenue earner Campaign saw its profits dwindle.
Heseltine, formerly deputy prime minister in John Major’s Tory administration in the 1990s, managed to cling on to the company despite an extended period in government and, now that he has retired from politics, has expanded Haymarket dramatically, investing heavily in China and the Far East to boost the company’s motoring franchises.
But these figures are still pretty grim and the company has had to renegotiate its banking facilities with RBS, pledging its freehold properties and cashflow against a £141m loan.
When Heseltine was away in government and full-time politics the company was ably administered for him by eccentric chairman Lindsay Masters and other key executives like managing director Simon Tindall.
Now Heseltine pere et fils are firmly in charge. And they face quite a challenge.