Freddy to take the Johnston out of Johnston Press

Freddie Johnston is to retire next month after 51 years on the board of Johnston Press.

It will be the first time in 243 years that there has not been a family member on the board of the company, the Sunday Times reports.

Johnston, 75, is currently a non-executive director. In the 2008 Sunday Times rich list he and his family were said to be worth £115m.

This correspondent recalls meeting Freddy Johnston when he was a reporter on the Johnston Press-owned Battle Observer. Johnston made a habit of visiting every member of staff at the company each year, saying hello and shaking them by the hand.

He had a colleague with him carrying a big leather bag, I recall, which we hacks speculated was full of cash. Back in the late 90s/early Naughties Johnston Press’ profit margins were approaching 40 per cent – very little of which filtered down to the reporters. NCTJ qualified graduates started on less than £8,000 a year.

Nowadays Johnston Press has deep problems financially, shackled by the huge cost of a buying spree which led to it becoming the UK’s second biggest regional newspaper publisher. More on this on Peter Kirwan’s Media Money blog.

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