The Financial Times seems to think so, judging by an apparently well-sourced report that describes shareholder unrest at the UK national and regional newspaper company.
UK newspapers, even posh ones that write about business such as the FT, don’t usually speculate aloud about the prospects of key executives in their own industry but the News Corporation phone hacking scandal has led to the gloves coming off.
The paper says Trinity Mirror’s shareholders are concerned about the reducing size of the company (now worth £125m) in relation to CEO Sly Bailey’s £1.4m pay package, Trinity Mirror’s (Trinity is the regional bit) failure to snap up any of its rivals to cut competition and stabilise ad prices in the struggling regional paper business and the prospect of the phone hacking contagion spreading to the company’s national papers, the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People.
Bailey, who took over as CEO in 2003 after a successful stint at magazine company IPC after starting her career in ad sales at the Guardian and the Independent, also has to look forward to working with a new chairman, former Reuters finance chief David Grigson. The arrival of a new chairman in medialand often means trouble for the incumbent CEO, as Steve Spring found out recently at Future Publishing.
Phone hacking could be the clincher here, if it’s found that anyone on any of the Mirror titles has so indulged. Newspaper boards have very belatedly rediscovered their moral compasses as the reputational and financial consequences of such scandals have become apparent, including the closure of News Corporation’s highly profitable News of the World. Not too long ago they were happy to ignore the grubby activities of the hacks so long as the profits kept rolling in.
But News Corp’s News international has just shelled out another £200,000 plus to phone hacking ‘victims,’ including Princess Diana’s former lover James Hewitt, and while these kind of sums might not bother News Corp, worth billions, they would be highly unwelcome at the Mirror titles.
Bailey has shown in the past that she can be made of stern stuff, sacking Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan just one year into her reign for printing faked pictures of British troops in Iraq ill-treating civilians. A startled Morgan was escorted from the building by security men.
Morgan himself is now under the spotlight of the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, staunchly denying yesterday that he’d known anything about phone hacking as editor of the Mirror (see link above).
It would be some consolation to Morgan, if he does get nailed by the inquiry, to bring down his nemesis Bailey too.