Metro managing director (MD) Steve Auckland is leaving the company to become chief executive of ESI Media companies ESL, IPL and ESTV.
Auckland will take up the role in October and the move follows the departure of group MD Andrew Mullins a week ago. A statement from ESI Media said that Auckland would help the company grow the London Evening Standard into multiplatform London media brand across print, digital and TV video, and oversee the wider transition from print to digital of the Independent brands.
Auckland will also take London Live, the local TV station launched by the group in March, “to the next stage”.
Auckland said it had been a “heart-breaking” decision to leave Metro.
“Everyone realises my love for Metro and the people who make that business,” he said. “I can’t believe how much we’ve achieved in the last six months; it’s been one of the highlights of my career.
“However, the lure to work on such iconic brands and build upon the excellent work from Andy and the team at ESI Media was just too strong.”
His tenure at Metro was his second as MD after serving in the role the first time from 2002 to 2011. He re-joined the company in 2013 following the departure of Linda Grant.
He will be replaced by Charlie Cox - who set up and ran Metro owner the Daily Mail and General Trust's (DMTG) commercial radio business in 1993 - as interim managing director.
Metro is one of three main freesheet papers available in London next to City A.M. and ESI Media’s the London Evening Standard. Under Auckland’s leadership, Metro.co.uk grew its year-on-year online traffic by more than 300 per cent and achieved three million unique users in February this year.
Evgeny Lebedev, who has overall control of the newspaper brands, added: “We are ready to take our businesses to their next phase of growth and development and I am delighted to welcome Steve on board to drive this next phase for our brands. Steve’s track record is second to none and he will be a great leader of our businesses.”
Earlier this month, ESI Media launched a commercial content division as “part of a reappraisal of the company”.