Fairfax’s new Melbourne chief operating officer David Hoath has been busy building a reputation as a feared axe-man. A former sales chief, Hoath apparently took the curious decision two weeks ago to slash circulation on the company’s suburban real estate glossies to save cash.

The flagship Melbourne Weekly shed a massive 6000 copies — from 114,729 on June 22 to 108,164 on June 29. Melbourne Weekly Port Phillip plunged from 42,627 on June 22 to 38,389 on June 29 and the Melbourne Weekly Bayside has lost 10,000 copies this year — from 94,861 in January to 89,001 on June 22 and 85,433 a week later.

Unfortunately, prominent real estate agents that make up the company’s advertising base are yet to be officially told their property p-rn is reaching far fewer families. According to one observer: “It’s amazing that they’ve cut the Melbourne Weekly by 6,000 in one week, and although they have published the new number, they also know no one takes any notice — if they are challenged they look like they’ve done the right thing. The right thing of course would be to tell your clients they are getting less for their money.”

Meanwhile, Crikey understands Fairfax Community Network general manager Colin Moss has asked local Fairfax real estate and motoring advertising reps to stop calling their clients built up over many years. Instead, head office will “look after” them, but not before some have started cancelling orders.

The ructions come as the former boss of the Mornington Peninsula-based Independent News Group, Felix Gander, is coaxed out of retirement to become Fairfax’s Central Division publications director. Is Felix priming himself to suddenly take over Moss’ position? And could he be planning to oversee the move of swathes of FCN content to Pagemasters?