HMV’s Simon Fox takes on mission very difficult indeed at Trinity Mirror

He likes a challenge does Simon Fox.

The outgoing CEO of stricken high street music seller HMV is to take over from Sly Bailey as CEO of Trinity Mirror, the rapidly-disappearing national newspaper group.

Fox (left), who famously turned down the opportunity to take the top job at ITV (now occupied to his great profit by Adam Crozier), will have his work cut out at TM too. TM is profitable thanks to Bailey’s ruthless cost-cutting which saw the departures of senior editors Richard Wallace and Tina Weaver in her last, knife-wielding act but how long that position continues is open to question as the group’s ad revenue is declining rapidly.

TM chairman David Grigson says: “His experience gives him a current and in-depth understanding of how consumers’ habits are changing and the technology that is driving these changes.”

It sure does. HMV remains on the brink of extinction despite new and cheaper deals with suppliers while Fox’s big bet on live music to rescue the company has backfired disastrously.

So will Fox be worth his big salary (up to £2m) and golden hello?

It may be that HMV’s decline would have resisted the efforts of a miracle worker to arrest it. Readers of TM’s Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People have remained astonishingly loyal over decades of decline; maybe there’s a rump of people who like a tabloid paper but can’t abide the self-congratulatory chutzpah and right wing jingoism of the Murdoch-owned Sun.

As for TM’s local papers, it’s a miracle they survive at all but they do. This probably testifies as much to the UK’s patchy broadband coverage as it does to the enduring relevance of local papers.

TM shares rose on news of Fox’s appointment. But being a TM shareholder doesn’t make you the smartest knife in the box. The group is now worth about £100m compared to the heady £1.7bn valuation it enjoyed before the internet wreaked its havoc.

So the new man will have to prove he really is a Fantastic Mr Fox to turn this one round.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.