Trinity Mirror chairman David Grigson discusses Simon Fox appointment as CEO and reveals Sly Bailey's involvement

David Grigson, chairman of Trinity Mirror, has spoken to The Drum about the surprise appointment of HMV chief executive Simon Fox as the publisher’s choice of successor to Sly Bailey, describing him as being someone who is good at engaging with people.

Fox will step into the shoes of Bailey, who left Trinity Mirror last month, having resigned in June. She was initially to remain in post until the end of the year.

Of the immediate response to filling the role of CEO, Grigson explained that the process was led by a headhunting company, which was briefed by executives and non-executives at the company, which included Bailey.

“Only when we understood what we were looking for did we start to go out and talk to people,” Grigson said. “What became clear was that what we needed somebody who deeply understood what the strategic challenges were for the business, the nature of which is changing, with digital playing an increasingly big part. We also someone who could engage the entire company and all of the people in it around dealing with those changes, dealing with those structure issues and moving the business forward and back to a period of sustained growth.”

Grigson continued: “I specifically met with some of the best people in the newspaper industry to find out what they could contribute but I wasn’t narrowing my search to just newspaper people or media people and also looked further afield. Simon coming from the retail sector suggests that we didn’t find someone who we thought was good enough within our sector.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about bringing in a chief executive and expecting to change the entire team. We have a good executive team here and I was really keen that we found someone who really complimented the team that we’ve got. I think that we’ve got the best executive team for any newspaper team in the country.”

Grigson says the fact that Fox was looking to leave HMV was ‘coincidental’ to the process, and revealed that Bailey’s input into the search for her successor was purely within the initial stages, offering advice as to what the right candidate needed to be able to offer.

He describes Fox strengths as being both “a combination of both his intellect and his intellectual curiosity for all things digital.”

Grigson elaborates; “HMV has seen a huge challenge with the pirating of DVDs and its history and if all you do is sell other people’s content then that is a very difficult place to escape from. We’ve seen a number of retailers go to the wall in recent years, but Trinity Mirror creates its own content and that presents a whole different set of opportunities, as well as challenges. We needed someone who understands all of that and someone who is very good at thinking through what the future holds and also what the company needs to do. If everyone is pulling in the same direction then it’s easier to get things done. His people skills and his ability to engage with people, as he’s very open, his collegian management style – all those things felt like absolutely the right thing for Trinity Mirror right now.”

As to Fox’s initial focus when he steps into the role, Grigson explains that there is no one area for him to look at, but admits that there are some ‘big challenges’ around recognising the big opportunities and moneytising them.

“There are organisation and structural challenges and we need to look at how we organise ourselves to face how we get out our daily and weekly newspapers but also become brilliant at satisfying our news and content in various other ways. Sometimes those things can seem to be in conflict with each other, but you want them to be in perfect harmony. There are organisational issues about how we structure ourselves, which is quite important for Simon to sort out, as well as all of the routine stuff. There are always opportunities and companies such as ourselves are always spoiled for choice in terms of where we put our money and we have got to be very thoughtful and sensible about where we invest. That is something that I think Simon will be particularly good at.”

He concludes by admitting that the appointment of Fox, he hopes, will help reverse the declining share price of the company going forward. The immediate reaction saw Trinity Mirror shares close on 38.50, a rise of 4.76 per cent.

Prior to joining HMV, Fox was Kesa Electricals where he was COO.

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