Head of redundancy joins the Express exodus

Robert Jobson and Lindsay Cook

The woman in charge of the redundancy programme at Express Newspapers, director and group managing editor Lindsay Cook, has herself resigned, she confirmed this week.

She will leave the company next month before the redundancy consultation period is finished. She has no other job lined up.

Cook, who has been at Ludgate House for four years, was also chairman of the Scottish board. She has worked with seven editors, three chairmen, five managing directors and one chief executive.

She refused to reveal her reasons for leaving and there was no comment from the company.

She heads a growing cast of some of the best people at the Daily and Sunday Express as they apply for redundancy.

The latest high-profile leavers are Daily Express assistant editor and No.3 Robert Jobson, Sunday Express political editor Peter Oborne, sports editor Mike Allen, and long-term district reporters Alun Rees and Bob McGowan.

And this week Saturday Magazine editor Sally Ferrari, her deputy David Allsop and all but one of the 22 staff have opted for fast-track redundancy. Colleagues say they had been told that only eight staff would be needed in future and they are likely to be from OK! as the Saturday Magazine is absorbed into the OK! supplement.

The Sunday Express magazine, only just given a glitzy remake, is also likely to have staffing levels halved.

It is an emotional time for leavers, watching as the structure of their departments is dismantled. A joint picture desk seems a certainty; four TV listings sub-editors are being taken into a central pool as the papers prepare to take camera-ready listings pages from PA and some sports reporters will be writing for all titles.

The features, news, showbiz and business desks are to be kept separate.

Boss Richard Desmond has said he wants to shed 145 staff, mostly journalists, from the total of 542. Around 400 have asked for redundancy quotes and, so far, 136 have applied for redundancy, even before formal consultations begin.

Only 74 have been agreed, as editor Chris Williams and Sunday Express executive editor Michael Pilgrim struggle to hold on to quality people.

At least half the 50 Scottish office staff are to go and the Daily Star team will move this summer to the third floor alongside the Express journalists.

Union negotiators, who met company representatives on Monday, demanded assurances that terms and conditions of all Express Newspapers staff are protected and that no one will be redeployed without their agreement.

Meanwhile, Desmond’s investment in celebrity promotions is paying off for the newspapers.

The company said sales of last weekend’s Sunday Express paper were back over the one million mark and up 5 per cent on the previous week, boosted by the Jamie Oliver cookery cards. The same promotion sent circulation of Saturday’s Daily Express up 9 per cent (105,000 copies) on the previous week to t0 1.2 million.

Editors are absolutely delighted as the Daily Star, too, saw its Saturday sale increase week on week by 10.6 per cent with a World Cup and Grand National promotion.

March ABC figures out this weekend are not likely to show what the company considers a steady growth trend because the rising figures came in the last two weeks.

New executive director Jason Fraser has contributed to the upturn with his specially selected pictures and with the creative direction of the advertising campaign, featuring Davina McCall, for the cookery cards.

By Jean Morgan

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