Fairfax Media has taken an axe to its senior management ranks in a major restructure that will see all its print assets folded into the one division for the first time.
In news announced to staff this morning, five separate print fiefdoms — Metro Media, the Australian Financial Review Group, Agricultural Media, Regional Media and Community Newspapers– will be collapsed into one entity known as Australian Publishing Media. As a result, metro media CEO Jack Matthews will leave the company; his chief operating officer David Hoath is understood to be departing too. Regional Media CEO Allan Browne is on the way out, with other “C suite” managers set to follow.
“There are CFOs, CMOs, COOs, strategy groups everywhere,” one Fairfax management source said this morning. “It needed to be streamlined.”
The new, slimmed-down Fairfax will have five separate divisions: Australian Publishing Media, Domain, Digital Ventures, Radio and New Zealand. This will allow the company — which announced 1900 job cuts last year — to make further cutbacks in administration, human resources, IT, sales and marketing.
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Unlike last year’s announcement, Fairfax has not announced the total number of job losses or how much money it expects to save from the latest overhaul.
Looking further ahead, the restructure would also make it easier for the company to spin off its divisions for sale. The Domain property division and Digital Ventures group (which includes Stayz and RSVP) would be particularly appealing to potential buyers. While Domain emerges from this restructure with its own division, the official announcement makes no mention of other classified sites such as Drive or MyCareer which are struggling behind competitors such as carsales.com.au and Seek.
On the editorial side, journalists who spoke to Crikey this morning said they were relieved their highly paid bosses were finally being targeted for cost savings. There are no editorial redundancies in the latest overhaul — though consultants from Bain and Company continue to lurk in the halls of Fairfax’s Pyrmont HQ in Sydney. Another major shake-up is expected within months and further editorial cuts are said to be in the mix.
Although their new jobs are not wildly different to their current ones, Metro Media editorial director (his old title) Garry Linnell and Financial Review Group CEO Brett Clegg emerge as winners.
There will be four new groups, operating across mastheads, within the new publishing division. Linnell will be director of “news media” which includes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times, websites such as The Brisbane Times and sports coverage (including for the Fin Review).
Clegg will head the “business media” group which includes The Australian Financial Review, BRW magazine and metro sections such as MyCareer, Money and, most importantly, Business Day sections. Business scribes at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have long revelled in taking a more independent — or critical, depending on your perspective — approach to business than their Fin colleagues. Business Day columnist Ben Butler, for example, recently referred to The Fin as the Australian Casino Review for its favourable James Packer coverage. It’ll be interesting to see if such niggling continues now all the business journos report to the same boss: Clegg.
The food and wine, drive, travel, lifestyle and women’s sections come together under “life media”. Linnell will head up this unit for now until a permanent head is found. Current digital transactions and classifieds boss Nic Cola will run the community media division which includes regional and agricultural publications.
Linnell’s message to his troops this morning was that the changes will make no practical difference to the way they work. But, on the newsroom floor, the rejig is widely seen as a sign that more copy-sharing across mastheads — including the metros and The AFR — is on the way. You won’t see bylines from key “brands” such as Laura Tingle and Ross Gittins sitting side by side any time soon. But there’s scope for copy — in areas such as travel, international affairs and business — to be shared across the Fin and the metros. The AFR already includes the Domain liftout in its papers and runs business scoops by The Age crack investigative team of Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie.
The word within Fairfax is that departing Metro Media CEO Jack Matthews was not dragged kicking and screaming out of the job. His current role no longer exists and it’s time to move on.
“He always said this would be his last job and he would go at the right moment,” one insider said. Allen Williams, previously CEO of Fairfax New Zealand, will take over the newly-created role of Managing Director, Australian Publishing Media.