No change of direction for media group

The new chief executive of media group Archant said there would be no change of strategy in the wake of John Fry's move to Johnston Press.Group finance director Adrian Jeakings will take up the top post at Archant - the publisher of the Times, this website, the Eastern Daily Press and a series of weekly newspapers and websites - on November 1.

The new chief executive of media group Archant said there would be no change of strategy in the wake of John Fry's move to Johnston Press.

Group finance director Adrian Jeakings will take up the top post at Archant - the publisher of the Times, this website, the Eastern Daily Press and a series of weekly newspapers and websites - on November 1.

Mr Fry's appointment as chief executive of Edinburgh-based Johnston Press was confirmed yesterday after six years at the helm at Archant.

Mr Jeakings said: "John leaves behind a very strong management team, a business that is in the process of bringing its growing digital activities into its mainstream, a magazine division that is unique in the industry and that has huge potential.

"He also leaves us at a point when compared with the rest of the industry we are performing slightly better, and in some areas much better, and we have lower debt. So the company is very strong, relatively and absolutely."

Mr Jeakings added: "The strategy is steady as she goes. We're not going to change direction. John and I have worked very closely for the last six years and while I have been working with him here we've developed the business together, so to suddenly change things around would be illogical."

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Mr Jeakings, 49, joined Archant in 2002 after serving as group finance director of The Stationery Office and holding a number of senior roles at Schlumberger, Graco and Dun & Bradstreet.

He predicted the wider economic climate would not show "material improvement this side of the end of 2009".

"Like many businesses, our immediate concern is cash conservation at the moment," Mr Jeakings added.

"At the same time, we intend to continue to grow the digital side of the business, and, maybe at a slightly lesser rate than before, keep working on the development of the magazine business. So we're not going change direction of the business radically at this point."

Mr Jeakings added that "newspapers have a great future".

"They are a core part of the business and the source of the brands that we are now exploiting online," he said.

"The power of Archant is in the titles that it has and the people who run those titles. I've found that to be much more the case here than in any other business that I've worked for. I'd never worked in the regional press before, but I'd worked in lots of different businesses, both UK and multinational, and with one possible exception, the ownership that people feel for what they are producing is much stronger."

Mr Jeakings will be replaced as group finance director by Brian McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy, 45, has been finance director of Archant Regional, the company's newspaper publishing division, since 2004.

Archant chairman Richard Jewson said: "Archant is fortunate to have extremely able management, well capable of continuing to develop the business. Adrian is ideally placed and qualified to take on the role of chief executive.

"Both Adrian and Brian have contributed a great deal to our success and it is a tribute to John Fry that he has created such a strong management team".

Mr Jeakings is a graduate of Imperial College, London, and a qualified accountant. He now serves as a governor of Norwich School and a member of the audit committee of the University of East Anglia.

Mr Fry will leave Archant on December 31, 2008.

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