Highbury's chief operating officer quits

By Alyson Fixter

The chief operating officer of struggling publisher Highbury House
has resigned just three weeks after taking on the role, following the
installation of former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie as executive
chairman.

Mike Frey, previously managing director of Highbury’s entertainment
division, had been due to take over from departing chief executive Mark
Simpson at the end of September.

MacKenzie, who quit as chief
executive of TalkSport owner The Wireless Group in the summer, took a
20 per cent stake in Highbury in September.

Under takeover rules, he would be obliged to make an offer for the publisher if his stake rose to 30 per cent.

A
statement put up on the Stock Exchange this week said: “The Board of
Highbury House Communications announces that Mike Frey, chief operating
officer, has left the company by mutual consent with immediate
effect. He will not be replaced.”

Other senior staff who
have stepped down this summer include David Nizol, the original chief
operating officer, and group finance director Owen Davies.

MacKenzie,
who this week penned a column for The Sun, has taken on the role of
executive chairman at Highbury at a difficult time for the publisher,
which announced in February that its debts stood at £64m.The company
has since sold off 38 titles to rival Future, including Health &
Fitness and DVD Review, has closed Home and Inspirations, and sold Real
Homes to Hachette Filipacchi for £500,000.

However, Highbury has
also won a contract to publish a monthly magazine for computer games
retailer Game, and has retained its Bournemouth-based gaming titles and
men’s magazine Front.

Industry commentators have blamed
Highbury’s difficulties on a previous programme of rapid expansion that
the publisher was unable to sustain, and have speculated that it could
be rescued by its current scaleback of operations and focus on
specialist titles.

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